Novartis is linking up with internet giant Google to use the latter’s smart lens technology “to transform eye care”.

The Swiss major’s Alcon division has entered into an agreement with a division of Google that is “devoted to finding new solutions to big global problems”  to develop and commercialise the aforementioned technology for all ocular medical uses. The smart lens technology involves non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturised electronics which are embedded within contact lenses.

Initially, the pact will look at measuring glucose levels in diabetic patients via a smart contact lens that analyses tear fluid in the eye and connects wirelessly with a mobile device. It will also develop the smart lens to help restore the eye's natural autofocus on near objects.

While the initial focus is on eyecare, the companies see the pact, the financial details for which have not been disclosed, going much further. Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez who said “we are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs”.

He added that “this is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye”. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said “our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people”.

Healthcare is becoming an increasingly important area for Google. Last month, it signed a deal in the USA looking at autism, while Google Glass is being investigated in a number of areas, including Parkinson’s.