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Novartis, Google backtrack plans to test smart contact lens in 2016

Novartis, Google backtrack plans to test smart contact lens in 2016When will Novartis and Google begin testing the autofocus contact lens they have been developing? Well, there’s still no clear date in sight.

The pharmaceutical company announced late last week they had done away with a 2016 goal of testing a smart contact lens for people with nearsightedness, telling Reuters, “It is too early to say when exactly human clinical trials for these lenses will begin.”

Novartis and Google teamed up two years ago, when Google announced it would be working with Novartis’s eye care division Alcon on two different lenses.

News about the work on the lenses broke in September 2015, when Google filed a patent application for a glucose-sensing lens and Novartis told a Swiss newspaper it was on track for human trials in 2016 of an autofocus lens for presbyopia (nearsighted) patients. No goal was ever set for when the glucose-monitoring lenses will be tested.

When the companies first partnered in 2014, Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez said he hoped the lens would be on the market within five years or so, and was also reported last year as saying they were on track to begin testing in 2016.

“This is a very technically complex process and both sides are learning as we go along and will provide updates at the appropriate time,” a Novartis spokesperson told Reuters.

While the glucose-sensing lens was originally announced as the more likely to hit testing and market first (Google met with the FDA to explore the noninvasive method of measuring blood glucose levels in people with diabetes) it is now unknown when they will start testing. When the patent application was filed, it left open the door for a range of possible capabilities the lens might have, such as external-facing sensors for things like temperature and air quality, as well as a suggestion of whether the lens could be powered by an external, handheld device or companion wearable.
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