Verily and Alcon pull the plug on glucose-sensing contact lens

Posted on November 19, 2018 by Medtech[y] Staff

Verily's Chief Technology Officer, Brian Otis, shared on Verily's blog that the company and Alcon have decided to put the glucose-sensing contact lens project on hold. This decision, however, will not affect the development of their other two Smart Lens programs with Alcon. Otis believes the significant technical learnings from the glucose-sensing program will only help with the two Smart Lens programs and the next phase of development.   

The partnership between Alcon and Verily started in 2014 and one of the first projects they worked on was to put sensors on a contact lens to measure glucose levels for people living with diabetes to better manage their disease. 

Verily Alcon

According to Otis, while there have been significant learnings along the way, the challenges may have been too tough to overcome at this time -

Our clinical work on the glucose-sensing lens demonstrated that there was insufficient consistency in our measurements of the correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations to support the requirements of a medical device. In part, this was associated with the challenges of obtaining 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.

While this particular program ended, not all is lost as they were able to get the Smart Lens to sense and transmit data on the eye and they've developed methods to integrate wireless electronics and miniaturized sensors into a contact lens and built thousands of lenses in numerous form factors. During development, Verily and Alcon performed many clinical study sessions with individual users, collecting hundreds of thousands of biological data points from on-eye readings.

Verily said they would continue working with Alcon on a smart accommodating contact lens for presbyopia, or far-sightedness, and a smart intraocular lens for improving sight following cataract surgery. Otis also stated that the two companies remain committed to improving the lives of people with diabetes including through improved methods for inexpensive and unobtrusive glucose sensing to support diabetes management. 

Verily is also working closely with Dexcom to develop miniaturized continuous glucose monitors and with Onduo, a joint venture with Sanofi, to integrate continuous sensing into the care paradigm for people living with Type 2 diabetes.