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Update – Verily Suspends Glucose-Sensing Contact Lens Project

Smart contact lenses

Smart contact lenses (Verily Life Sciences)

17 Nov. 2018. An initiative developing a contact lens that measures blood glucose levels in tear fluid is now on hold, according to Verily Life Sciences, a division of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Suspension of the nearly 5 year-old project, a joint venture of Verily and Alcon, the eye care division of drug maker Novartis, was announced in a Verily blog post yesterday.

As first reported in Science & Enterprise in July 2014, Novartis/Alcon licensed the so-called smart contact lens from pre-Alphabet Google. Google’s research labs developed a prototype device to analyze the composition of tears to gauge blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. The prototype layered a miniaturized glucose sensor and wireless transmitter between two soft contact lenses that measures blood glucose levels up to once a second. Google first announced its work on the lenses in January of that year.

In its blog post, Verily says its development teams could not generate enough consistency in measuring glucose in tear fluids to correlate with glucose levels in blood. The company attributes the inconsistencies to confounding molecules in tear fluids, which make it difficult to reliably gauge the low levels of glucose in tears. Verily says it will continue other development work with Alcon on accommodating contact lens for presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness, and other lens devices for improving sight after cataract surgery.

In addition, Verily says it plans to continue joint ventures involving diabetes care with drug maker Sanofi and medical device company Dexcom. The Sanofi joint venture, reported by Science & Enterprise in September 2016, created a separate enterprise called Onduo to develop new devices that help people with diabetes better manage their condition.

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