Novartis AG and Google’s Life Sciences to Test Smart Contact Lens in People in 2016

Novartis and Google’s Life Sciences to Test Smart Contact Lens in People in 2016
September 8, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Novartis announced that is will test its smart contact lens in humans next year. The lens is being developed with Google Inc.’s Life Sciences division.

The contact lens is being developed to ultimately monitor blood glucose levels in diabetics. However, the first tests in people will be for vision correction in presbyopia, which is age-related far-sightedness.

“This project is progressing well,” said Joe Jimenez, chief executive officer of Novartis in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. “I had said it would take about five years to see a product on the market. The calendar is on track and we are already developing a technological lens prototype (that) should be tested on humans in 2016.”

The lens, as described on Jan. 16, 2014 on the official Google blog is “a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.” The blog went on to indicate the company was testing prototypes that could create a reading every second and that might have integrated LED lights that would light up to warn the wearer when glucose levels were too high or low.

Google announced on Aug. 20 that it was forming an umbrella company, Alphabet, and then spinning off various companies, including Life Sciences. Life Sciences, which will soon be changing its name, is the first company to stand alone under Alphabet.

On Aug. 31, Life Science and Paris-based Sanofi announced they will partner on diabetes monitoring and treatment. On Aug. 15, Life Sciences also entered a partnership with DexCom to develop a Band-Aid sized wearable glucose monitor.

In addition to discussing the contact lens with Google/Life Sciences, Jiminez discussed the company’s attempts to try a pay-for-performance pricing model for its cardiovascular drug Entresto. The overall plan was to sell the drug to some customers at a discount, but if the drug slashed the need for hospital visits, Novartis would receive additional payment.

“In the United States, we proposed to insurers a differentiated price calculated according to length of stay,” Jiminez told Le Temps. “Few insurers entered in the field. They told us that the system was too complicated.”

So in the end, Novartis set the drug price at about $4,500 per year. Entresto was approved by the FDA in July. It was reviewed under the FDA’s priority review program and was granted fast track designation. The drug was studied in more than 8,000 individuals and was shown to cut the rate of cardiovascular death and hospitalizations related to heart failure compared to a different drug, enalapril.

In terms of the diabetes-related applications for the contact lens, the long-range goal appears to be to connect the lens with some sort of insulin pump. “That’s the Holy Grail,” said Cameron Sepah, medical director at Omada Health, to National Public Radio“Health companies have been working on this for years. But Google has a history of taking on very ambitious projects.”

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