The Dawn of Smart Contacts

Living with diabetes is difficult. 29.1 million Americans have to deal with the reality of the disease every day. One of the most difficult aspects of the disease is the constant need to monitor blood sugar levels. Currently, the most effective, and common, way of monitoring one’s blood sugar is by drawing blood from a finger, and placing the sample into a monitor. Recently, however, scientists and researchers have been developing newer and less intrusive methods of blood sugar monitoring. From fully automated pancreases to implantable glucose monitoring chips, the race to find a better way to monitor glucose levels is heating up. And the most unobtrusive method may be coming soon: smart contact lenses.


According to Gizmodo, researchers from Oregon State University have created a transparent biosensor that can be implanted into contact lenses which can detect sudden changes in blood sugar levels, among other health issues. According to the Gizmodo article, the lead scientist behind the project, Gregory Herman, was looking for a far safer and more practical method of monitoring blood glucose levels, as the current means can be painful and inconvenient.


The project came to be after Herman and his colleagues developed a semiconductor made out of gallium zinc oxide; this would be the foundation of the smart contact lenses. In short, the biosensor is engineered in such a way that when it comes in contact with glucose, it oxidizes blood sugar, which allows for noticeable changes in the body. While the technology is still new, Herman hopes that it can be developed to measure any number of diseases.


“There is a fair amount of information that can be monitored in a teardrop,” Herman stated in an interview with Gizmodo. “Of course, there is glucose, but also lactate, dopamine, urea, and proteins. Our goal is to expand from a single sensor to multiple sensors.”
If Herman and his group can hone the technology and mass produce it, they could potentially change the way that diabetics live their lives. Hopefully, the lenses will not only take off, but become a standard in blood sugar monitoring and even help detect other diseases.

Scientific Philanthropy

West coast philanthropies are setting their sights on science. After budget cuts slashed available scientific funding, many charitable and philanthropic organizations stepped up to fill in the gaps. Like other recent tech trends, most of these philanthropies are established on the West Coast, making it the go-to location

Doug MacFaddin Scientific Philanthropyfor researchers looking for funding.

In an article for Nature, staff writer Erika Check Hayden profiles the situation of Marc Kastner. A physicist, Kaster realized that that 16 of the top-50 philanthropies in the country were based on the West coast. By comparison there were 6 in the entire New York tri-state area. So he struck out west, and formed the Science Philanthropy Alliance. The Palo Alto group is a union of philanthropic organizations with a focus on funding research. They also teach new groups how to go about their own funding, too. Kastner watched brilliant young graduates from top schools struggle to get the funding necessary to start a career in science and medicine, and that was what encouraged him to try to make a difference for the better.

The effort attracted the attention of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Their foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is pledging 3 billion dollars with the hope of eliminating the worst of human disease by the year 2100. And at a recent gala for the group, the social media titan urged other philanthropists to seek out Kastner for advice.

The Science Philanthropy Alliance also takes care to not dictate what kind of research is done. Instead, they focus on building the best tools and infrastructure necessary for curious minds to find solutions to the problem at hand. Private meetings are also held to determine where and how to direct funds to these projects and the individuals behind them.