Contact lenses are increasingly becoming a platform for new technology. This was underscored by two major announcements last month. First, Johnson & Johnson Vision reported that it has developed a “first-of-its-kind contact lens that provides wearers with vision correction and a dynamic photochromic filter” that adapts to changing light conditions. The two-week reusable lens, which continuously balances the amount of light entering the eye, will be marketed as Acuvue Oasys with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology and will become available in 2019.

Then EyeGate Pharmaceuticals reported that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued the company a patent covering the utility of its iontophoretic contact lens. EyeGate said this is the first issued patent covering the iontophoretic contact lens, and it relates to a multi-layer contact lens for ocular therapy. (Iontophoresis is defined as the introduction of an ionized substance, such as a drug, through intact skin by the application of a direct electric current.) The lens is composed of a reservoir adapted to contain an electrically-charged therapeutic compound and an electrode providing iontophoretic current to the charged compound to propel it into the ocular tissue. The iontophoretic contact lens provides an easy, potentially improved technique for delivery of therapeutics to the retina, according to EyeGate. The company said the lens is well-suited for treating chronic retinal conditions and has selected macular edema as its initial target.

Smart contact lenses are also beginning to play an important role in eyecare. One such lens, Sensimed’s Triggerfish, monitors the wearer’s intraocular pressure.

We’re still waiting to see the result of Alcon’s smart contact lens development project, which its parent company, Novartis, announced in 2014. The project was made possible through a licensing agreement with Google. Novartis said the smart lens technology might help diabetic patients manage their disease by providing a continuous, minimally invasive measurement of the body’s glucose levels. Another application would be to provide accommodative vision correction for presbyopes.

The fact that contact lenses are especially popular with younger patients, who tend to be more receptive to new technology, could help spur rapid adoption of this exciting new generation of advanced contact lenses.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology