InWith Corporation, which holds key enabling IP in augmented contact lenses, has been at work with Bausch and Lomb (NYSE: BHC) to develop smart contacts for the past year. InWith plans for an Institutional Review Board approval this year on first prototypes. InWith co-founder and CEO Michael Hayes says the unique marriage of highly biocompatible materials with 3-D flexible microelectronics embedded into molded hydrogel devices, which InWith calls “smart biology,” may be on the market “in the near future.”
With InWith’s technology, the augmented lens is just like the soft contact lens 150 million people use every day. Except they’re connected to your phone. They harvest energy from the normal blinking of the eyes. Check your blood sugar. Send alerts and notifications. “This opens the door to hundreds of new devices: blood chemistry for cancer and virus detection, drug delivery, artificial organ parts with electronics for movement,” said Hayes in an interview. “This is the next big wave; the merger of the mobile device into the human body for full monitoring of your health. It will lead to less disease and longer lives.”
Hayes is the co-inventor, with Dr. David Markus PhD, of InWith’s medical device, microelectronics and ophthalmic patents. Some of the patents used are: (1) Energy Harvesting from the blinking human eye to power a contact lens; (2) Defining space inside hydrogel devices such as contacts, for computer circuitry to be embedded during manufacturing; and (3) Smart case for charging smart contact lenses in liquid medium, while not in use. There are more, and some pending.
InWith’s remarkably small team of five has been working alongside a much larger team of scientists on the smart contact lens’ development. “In Bausch and Lomb’s labs, our smart technology is embedded in the Bausch and Lomb ULTRA contacts, which are the best multifocal lenses on the market today.” Said Hayes.
“The era of fully monitored health and well-being is coming and it requires biocompatibility mixed with circuitry,” says Hayes. “Won’t it be cool when early detection of virus, cancer, etc., will be in micro hydrogel implants that alert your smartphone, like your home has carbon monoxide and smoke detectors? Commonplace.” Hayes says at scale the augmented contacts won’t cost much more than the current contact lenses.
Bausch and Lomb is a leading manufacturer of contact lenses, which is an $18 Bn market. “Bausch + Lomb continuously seeks the latest advancements in eye care technology,” said Arthur Shannon, SVP of Bausch and Lomb.
Last month, Mojo Vision came out of stealth with its own augmented contact lenses. They are doing a pilot with Vista Vision Center of Palo Alto helping sight impaired people navigate low light situations. “The future is wet,” said Hayes. “This is just the DOS phase for this technology. We’re going to have bio implants. It won’t end here.”