Novartis has turned its back to its 2016 goal of starting its autofocus contact lens on people,even though the company had disclosed that their collaborative product with Google is progressing steadily.
“It is too early to say when exactly human clinical trials for these lenses will begin,” said the company’s spokesperson. “This is a very technically complex process and both sides are learning as we go along. We will provide updates at the appropriate time,” she said.
Veteran pharmaceutical company, Novartis and the tech-giant, Google joined hands two years ago to create smart contact lenses: An autofocusing lens for people with presbyopia, or far-sightedness, and another for measuring blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.
The smart lenses are currently under development at Google Alphabet’s life sciences unit. Measuring blood sugar via the eye could allow diabetics to stop having to prick their fingers, while an autofocus contact lens would help people whose ability to focus is impaired when their eyes age.
Since the partnership with Google was launched in 2014, Alcon’s sales have slid and its leadership team has been replaced. New division head Mike Ball has been tasked with halting the revenue decline in advance of a possible sale of the unit.
But Novartis said that did not bar investment in innovative projects such as the lens effort with Google. “Advancing innovation such as the smart lens technology, is a key part of Alcon’s growth strategy,” the spokeswoman said. “The ‘smart lens’ technology has the potential to transform eye care and further enhance our pipeline… in the contact lens and intraocular lens space.”