SAN FRANCISCO — Verily, the life sciences-focused Google offshoot, has shelved the ambitious project to develop a glucose-sensing contact lens that inspired its founding.
In a blog post on Friday, Verily said it will put “on hold” its work on the contacts, which had been envisioned as a way to relieve people with diabetes of the need for needle sticks to test their blood sugar. The project was begun almost five years ago by Google — before the launch of Verily. Verily began a collaboration in 2014 with partner Alcon (ALC), a division of Novartis (NVS), to develop the lens.
Had the project worked, it could have overhauled the $10 billion diabetes monitoring market, because millions of patients must frequently calibrate their diet and insulin intake by drawing blood and measuring its glucose level.
A 2016 STAT investigation found that many researchers — both inside and outside of Verily — viewed the quest to develop such contacts as technically infeasible because tears are an unreliable fluid to use in measuring blood sugar.
In Verily’s mea culpa on Friday, it acknowledged just that. “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,” the blog post said.
These contacts were the idea that inspired Google co-founder Sergey Brin to create Verily. Like Google, Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet (GOOG).
Separately from the glucose-sensing contacts project, Verily is also collaborating with Alcon on what it calls a “smart accommodating” contact lens for age-related farsightedness. That project suffered a delay in 2016, when the developers gave up on their goal to test it in people by the end of that year.
Verily is also working on what it terms a “smart intraocular” lens for improving sight after cataract surgery.
The work on the accommodating and intraocular lenses will continue, Verily’s blog post said.