Verily plans digital ophthalmology joint venture with Santen


Verily is planning a digital ophthalmology joint venture with Japan’s specialist in the field, Santen.

The joint venture does not yet have a name but aims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, as well as connected and integrated medical devices.

Verily is part of Alphabet, the company that owns Google, and already has experience in ophthalmology.

The company had been trying to develop a smart contact lens with Alcon since 2014, but stopped working on the project four years later.

There are few details about the latest project, with the companies saying that it will use microelectronics and “scalable digital technologies”.

The joint venture does have a CEO – Dimitri Azar joined Verily Life Sciences as senior director of ophthalmic innovations in 2017.

Azar is a Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and served as the Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine from 2011 to 2018.

Before that he was Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School from 2003 until 2006 and was a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

Azar said: “By combining Santen’s expertise and Verily’s advanced technology, our joint venture is well positioned to tackle innovative projects spanning ophthalmic conditions, such as glaucoma and dry eye. We’ll explore ways to use technology not only to diagnose disease, but to improve treatment and develop more precise interventions in ophthalmology.”

Shigeo Taniuchi, president and COO of Santen said: “This joint venture will combine Verily's cutting-edge digital technology and our global industrial and commercial ophthalmology business platform to pursue innovation in ophthalmology.

“Santen has actively promoted collaboration and open innovation with various external organisations in order to enhance eye health, and corresponding quality of life, for people around the world. Digital technology is a transformational driver in health and we hope that this joint venture will be a significant step forward in paving the way for better eye care around the world.”