Verily Smart Lens

One of Verily’s first projects was to make contact lenses that could detect glucose levels from teardrops. Less invasive than fingertip blood pricks for people living with diabetes, the Alphabet company and partner Alcon today announced that it is putting that project “on hold” due to the diabetes premise not being suitable.

The “correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations” was found to be “insufficient” during clinical work by Verily. Additionally, it is hard to obtain “reliable tear glucose readings in the complex on-eye environment.”

For example, we found that interference from biomolecules in tears resulted in challenges in obtaining accurate glucose readings from the small quantities of glucose in the tear film. In addition, our clinical studies have demonstrated challenges in achieving the steady state conditions necessary for reliable tear glucose readings.

As a result, Verily and Novartis’ eye-care division Alcon is pausing work on glucose-sensing lenses. However, the company is still developing other “smart accommodating contact lens and smart intraocular lens projects.”

Since 2014, the Smart Lens program has become a platform for different medical use cases. Verily has managed to integrate wireless electronics for relaying back results and other miniaturized sensors into soft contact lenses. Power consumption has been reduced to allow for tiny batteries, while the Alcon partnership is on material science and other areas.

This work requires a cross-functional team of people from different disciplines, including chip design, mechanical engineering, optics design, microfabrication, electrochemistry and manufacturing.

Verily has prototyped “thousands of lenses in numerous form factors.” The goal is to integrate smarts into devices already used by patients.

Two other Smart Lens projects in development set out to create a contact lens for presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) and a smart intraocular lens for improving eyesight after cataract surgery.

Meanwhile, the Alphabet division still has a number of diabetes-related projects, including a miniaturized continuous glucose monitor with Dexcom and supporting Type 2 diabetes management through the Onduo venture with Sanofi.

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Abner Li

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