Contact lenses as a drug delivery system take home MIT Sloan Healthcare prize

This Editor has been covering contact lenses in health tech since at least 2013–contact lenses that detect glucose for diabetics (Google/Novartis/Alcon), eye pressure (Sensimed), and even detect multiple diseases (Oregon State University). None to date have made it into commercial release.

Here’s another try, this time from this year’s winner of the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovation Prize competition. Theraoptix won the $25,000 grand prize, sponsored by Optum. The lenses are designed to deliver eye medication on a time release basis using a thin polymer film formed into a tiny circular strip sandwiched into the lens material. They can be worn for up to two weeks to slowly but constantly deliver drugs in the treatment of diseases like glaucoma or after surgery. It can also deliver drugs effectively for back of the eye treatment of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and similar diseases that today require in-office injections.

Theraoptix was developed by Lokendra Bengani Ph.D. of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. It was based on core technology by ophthalmologist Joseph B. Ciolino MD, who is Dr. Bengani’s mentor. We wrote about Dr. Ciolino’s research previously [TTA 7 Sept 16] including a look back at contact lens research. There were seven other finalists, of which the most interesting to this Editor was Kinematics shoe insole sensors for gait detection analysis (and fall prevention).  MIT News

Can Big Pharmas hiring of digital execs actually ‘reimagine medicine’?

Reimagination or hallucination? In recent weeks, both Glaxo Smith Kline and now Novartis have hired digital analytics and marketing executives out of non-healthcare businesses to lead their digital transformation. For GSK, Karenann Terrell joined in the new position of chief digital and technology officer from six years as chief information officer for Walmart and CIO for pharma Baxter International. From Sainsbury’s Argos, Bertrand Bodson will be assuming the chief digital officer title at Novartis without any previous healthcare experience.

Both are expected to be transformative, disruptive, and ‘reimagine medicine’. Ms. Terrell’s experience and accomplishments appear to be the closest fit to her GSK’s job expectations of integrating digital, data, and analytics strategy with enhancing clinical trials and drug discovery, as well as improving professional and consumer interactions. Novartis’ mission for Mr. Bodson aims even higher. In addition to these, he will be ‘transforming our business model using digital technologies’, ‘reimagine (sic) medicine by leveraging digital on behalf of millions of patients and practitioners’, and ‘leading cultural change’.

Both companies have good starts in advanced technologies–GSK in AI, sensor technologies for managing COPD, and a medical device mobile app; Novartis with ‘smart pill’ Proteus, a pilot with heart medication Entresto tied to monitoring and coaching, and through its Alcon subsidiary with Google, a wired-up contact lens that detects blood glucose [TTA 17 July 14]. However, this last appears to be stalled in trials and Alcon on the block. According to the FT, Novartis is feeling the pressure to develop more digital partnerships, such as Novo Nordisk’s teaming with Glooko and Sanofi with Verily Life, all in diabetic management. Acquisitions may also be the way forward.

A significant impediment to all this integration is consumer and professional trust. If too closely tied to a pharmaceutical company or appearing to be too self-serving, remote monitoring and counseling may not be trusted to be in the patient’s (or doctor’s) best interest or objective as to better approaches. The overuse of analytics, for instance in counseling or patient direction, may be perceived as violating patient privacy–creeping out the patient isn’t helpful. The bottom line: will these digital technologies serve the patient and maintain medical best practices–or best serve the pharmaceutical company’s interests?

This Editor doesn’t question these individuals’ ability, but the organizations’ capability for change. But count this Editor as a skeptic on whether one or two digital execs can marshal the bandwidth and the internal credibility to transform these lumbering, complex, regulated, and long cycle businesses. Big Retail is fast moving by comparison. PMLive 31 July (GSK), 13 Sept (Novartis)  Hat tip to TTA alumna Toni Bunting

‘Gear Blink’? Samsung patents an embedded camera in a contact lens (S. Korea)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/samsung-smart-contact-lens-1.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]A Samsung news tracking website, SamMobile, has tracked down publication of a Samsung patent filing for a smart contact lens. This concept would have a camera with a display that would project directly into the eye, a tiny antenna that transmits images to the smartphone, and motion sensors that trigger by movement and blinking. This is different than the Google/Alcon lens in their new Verily Life Sciences division (TTA 17 July 14 and 1 Sept 15, pictured in the Mashable article) which is for measuring blood glucose. Samsung apparently filed the patent in 2014, and filed the ‘Gear Blink’ name for a trade mark in the US and South Korea. No clue on how comfortable a lens with a camera, antenna and display would be on a normal eye. Hat tip to former TTA Ireland Editor Toni Bunting.

Alphabet action versus diabetes with Life Sciences’ contact lens and Sanofi

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/google-contacts_1401174_616.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] Monday’s Big Story. As previously reported [TTA 25 Aug], the new Google holding company Alphabet is bringing the Life Sciences group formerly under Google X into its own company, with a new name TBD. On Monday, Life Sciences and Paris-based pharma Sanofi announced a partnership on projects related to diabetes monitoring and treatment. According to BioSpace, “at least part of the partnership will be focusing on helping Life Sciences create small, Internet-based devices that either automatically adjust insulin levels, or make suggestions based on real-time monitoring. ”

Clearly Life Sciences’ raison d’etre includes a focus on this disease, others that may relate to it, and in developing devices that others may market. Your Editors have been tracking their research for well over a year. A roundup of Life Sciences’ partnerships include more than diabetes:

**Novartis division Alcon for the glucose sensing contact lens [TTA 17 July 14, patent report 27 Mar 15 ]

** DexCom to develop a Band-Aid sized wearable for glucose monitoring, announced 15 August

**A 10 year deal with Abbvie for age-related disease exploration (which relates to the accelerated aging associated with diabetes)

**Biogen for multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments

We continue to have doubts about the practicality of the contact lens and the viability of embedded sensors in lenses, as the eyes are extremely sensitive and especially vulnerable for those with diabetes. But directionally on this disease, which is expanding almost uncontrollably worldwide, the research and devices which Life Sciences can develop for a variety of companies looks promising. Business Insider, Re/Code, Digital Trends

Google granted patent for sensor contact lens

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/google-contacts_1401174_616.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]On Tuesday, Google was granted a patent for its contact lens with sensors and embedded microchip. According to Time, the patent award was uncovered by WebProNews, which seems to be focused more on the problems of Google Glass than the patent, though the abstract and a development figure is included. The patent was originally filed in September 2012. We’ve previously noted that Google is partnering with Novartis/Alcon (their eyecare division) to further develop applications. The most prominent is glucose level detection for diabetics, but there is also a huge market in correcting presbyopia and autofocusing ‘zoom’ lenses [TTA 17 July 14] Of course, Google does not admit to any of this, telling a Time reporter that “We hold patents on a variety of ideas—some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.” So we should keep blinking.

Google, Novartis team on ‘smart contact lens’ for diabetics

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/116-fam_1a.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]Despite Sergey and Larry’s vapors over healthcare [TTA 10 July], Google is joining with the Alcon eyewear/eyecare division of Novartis to further develop the smart contact lens. With a licensing deal between them, the initial Google X-Novartis project is the smart contact lens that contains a low power microchip and a hair-thin electronic circuit. It would initially measure blood glucose for diabetics, but also in Novartis’ president’s words, would meet additional “unmet medical needs” within the next five years. Our profile of the lens exactly six months ago [TTA 17 July] has additional detail, including the practicality (and injury potential) of contact lenses for diabetics, especially thicker ones with ‘circuitry’. (Also see the comment below the article.) Another area (and a much-needed, thus profitable one) is age-related farsightedness and creating an ‘autofocusing’ lens much like a zoom lens. Certainly a partner like Alcon will help work through the questions and also steer the X-Marks-The-Spot lens through the usual FDA review that marks the muddy spot before the rainbow. Google Smart Contact Lens Focuses On Healthcare Billions (Forbes)