Why Google and Novartis are teaming up

A close-up of a pair of early contact lenses.

First, there was Google Glass. Now, Google is getting into contact lenses, teaming up with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. 

They're working on smart lenses that will be able to monitor blood sugar levels for diabetics through the natural tears in our eyes.  

Google and Novartis also say they’re developing another lens that can auto-focus the eye. It could help with reading, because as the eye ages, it’s harder to see things up close.   

The two companies complement each other pretty well: Google doesn’t need any money from Novartis, while Novartis can help Google navigate the clinical and regulatory side of things.

“They need more the expertise in terms of running clinical trials, getting approval from the FDA, and then marketing after approval,” says John Mack, who follows the pharmaceutical industry as publisher of "Pharma Marketing News."

Google could definitely use an FDA go-between. About five years ago, the FDA went after pharmaceutical companies about ads that popped up in Google searches. The FDA said the ads didn’t contain relevant risk information. 

The partnership also benefits Novartis. Its contact lens division, Alcon, will get a huge jump into smart contact lens technology with the deal. 

Novartis sees a lot of potential for contact lenses that monitor our health. The company says it sees the Google deal as an opportunity to “develop and commercialize” Google’s smart lens technology.


CORRECTION:  The original version of this story misidentified the publication of John Mack. The text has been corrected.

 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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