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Dr Tony James
Dr Tony James
contact lens
The hologram can be seen in the brown centre of the lens - this will be invisible when worn, however

Press Release - 23 February 2006

Contact lenses that warn diabetics are to be developed

A £120,000 research grant has been awarded to research and develop contact lenses that use “Sensor Hologram” technology to help diabetics ensure their blood sugar level is not dangerously high or low.

The funding will pay for a researcher to be employed for two years to help develop the new system, which automatically senses the glucose levels of diabetics so that they will no longer have to take daily blood samples.

The researcher will work for Smart Holograms, based in Cambridge, which is developing the sensors, but will also be supervised by Dr Tony James and Dr Steve Bull of the University of Bath’s Department of Chemistry. Dr James is an expert on sensors for glucose and Dr Bull is an expert in organic synthesis.

Dr James said that at present some diabetics have to take bloods samples several times a day by pricking themselves with a needle and checking the sample’s glucose level using an electronic kit.

This is necessary because the glucose level in a diabetic’s blood can quickly rise or fall too much, which can cause coma or other health problems. However, taking the samples is painful and inconvenient.

The new system involves special contact lenses which sense the glucose levels in the tear fluid of the wearer’s eye, which may be linked to the concentration of glucose in the blood.

Changes in the glucose level in the tear fluid alter the wavelength of light reflected by the “Sensor Hologram” in the contact lens, and this can be detected by a small device held up to the eye to give an accurate reading of the wearer’s glucose level. This painless system will allow diabetics to monitor their glucose levels more often, leading to better blood sugar control and fewer health problems.

“This method is the most sensitive of all of the systems that are being developed for diabetics,” said Dr James.

“When it comes onto the market it will make the lives of many millions of diabetics simpler, safer and less painful.”

The research team from Bath will work on developing a chemical receptor which will be incorporated into the contact lens and which will only interact with glucose to produce a change in the hologram is produced.

The grant is jointly funded by Smart Holograms and the Department of Trade and Industry under its Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme. Dr James and Dr Bull were helped by Richard Battams, the University’s KTP Programme Manager.

Smart Holograms, which has an investment of £17 million in its work, has a team of 25 people and facilities in Cambridge, UK, and San Ramon, USA. It is also planning to open a commercial office in Boston, USA, later this year.


For more details contact:

Smart Holograms: Telephone: +44 (0)1223 393403; Mr Richard Battams, 01225 385235



Smart Holograms is an early-stage company that has exclusive rights to the sensor hologram technology invented at Cambridge University. To date, Smart has had an investment of £17 million in its core science base and in the business. The Company currently has a team of 25 people (including 10 with PhD) and has two facilities: in Cambridge (UK) and in San Ramon (USA). Smart is also planning to open a new Commercial office in Boston later this year. In addition, it has four partnerships with global, leading companies for exploitation of its novel sensor hologram technology. The company is currently doubling its head count and aims to be completing development of its first products in 2006.

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