Novartis, Google Develop 'Smart' Lens; Hope to Commercialize in Five Years
Novartis AG and Google Inc. have joined forces to develop “smart” contact lenses that will monitor blood-sugar levels and correct vision in a new way, the latest in a series of moves that are focused on billions of dollars of potential revenue across the digital healthcare market.
The Swiss drugmaker licensed technology from Google, and while Novartis expects the development to take several years, the company hopes to have a product ready for market within the next five years.
“This isn’t going to happen overnight because it’s a breakthrough technology. It’s not months, we’re probably talking about years,” Joe Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis, told Reuters in an interview. “We would hope to be able to commercialize within about five years.”
The two companies will create a contact lens that contains a low power microchip and an almost invisible, hair-thin electronic circuit.
The device for diabetics would measure glucose in tear fluid and send the data wirelessly to a mobile device, according to Novartis. The technology is potentially life-changing for many diabetics, who prick their fingers as many as 10 times daily to check their body’s production of the sugar.
The second approach is to restore the eye’s ability to focus – a loss that occurs in presbyopia, in which aging eyes have trouble focusing on close objects. Such technology would help individuals when reading or looking at nearby objects.
Under the deal with Google, Novartis’ Alcon eyecare unit will further develop and commercialize the lens technologies designed by Google[x], a development team that is devoted to finding new solutions to global problems. Financial details of the partnership were not provided.
The agreement represents an important step for Novartis, across all of its divisions, to leverage technology to manage human diseases and conditions. Google’s key advances in miniaturization of electronics complement Novartis’ pharmaceuticals and medical device expertise.
“Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”