David A. Edwards
health scientist & Harvard professor
Food or drink available in edible packaging. Flavourful cocktails whose alcohol content evaporates before consumption and which are sucked out of the design jar through a straw. Individual text messages with aroma, sent by smartphone, whose scent the recipient can reconstruct via an iPad app using a separate device. Three examples that do not come from science fiction but are reality already. These revolutionary creations were realised by David A. Edwards and his team. He is a multi-awards winning bioengineer, scientist, mathematician, chemist, artist, writer and since 2002 Harvard professor plus TIME’s two time “inventor of the year”.
David A. Edwards
health scientist & Harvard professor
The American (* 6 April 1961, Ann Arbor/Michigan) has had a stellar career. In the early Eighties, he studied chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University and received his doctorate in 1987. After teaching positions, among others in Israel, Edwards did research in the medical field and sold his patent for an asthma spray in 1999. Instead of retiring with the 114 million US dollars, the youngest member of the National Academy Of Engineering uses the money to work independently and on his own. He is committed to combining science, art, humanism and design with commercial viability and, at the same time, real benefits for humanity. Particularly close to his heart, who is also involved in non-profit organisations, is inventing the food of the future as well as replacing plastic packaging with - ideally - consumable casings made of ecological, vitamin-rich materials. To turn his visions into reality, Edwards founded ArtScience Labs. The mixture of laboratory, think tank, lecture hall and - in Paris - museum or restaurant (in the Boston suburb of Cambridge) is vividly presented in his book 'The Lab: Creativity and Culture'.
At the US branch the usually casually dressed academic, together with chemist John Lamppa presented the novel WikiPearls at the launch of the company WikiFoods Inc. in 2010: golf ball-sized balls filled with soup, ice cream or compote, encased in a hermetically sealing edible shell. Some US supermarkets spontaneously included this first product from the WikiCell series in their assortment.
AeroLife, on the other hand, is a range of food supplements. The calorie- and sugar-free powder, available in various flavours, is inhaled through the mouth via a lipstick-shaped and -sized device; depending on the composition, it either provides energy, has an immune-boosting effect, promotes athletic performance or allows consumers to enjoy coffee or chocolate.
Edward's bar/restaurant Café ArtScience (named after the annual innovation prize he organises) offers the perfect opportunity to test the latest innovations. Among other things, his futuristic carafe Le Whaf is there. It transforms drinks into smoke by means of microwaves. The taste of a cocktail is fully preserved, but the alcohol content is minimal.
Next to the Café ArtScience is the Memory laboratory, a think tank for the 16 Harvard students he takes in each year. Here, creativity is also encouraged on as many levels as possible. David A. Edwards, who wrote the manifesto 'Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation', knows: "Creative people carry both the artistic and the scientific in them. Science is intuitive, imaginative. It shows artistic aspects, but at the same time it is extremely ethical, methodical, logical. As a discipline, however, it combines well to find solutions to problems."
The adjacent Boston is home of another venture of this visionary, forward-thinking health scientist: Incredible Foods. According to the homepage of this company, it focuses on Nature Designed Food: „We use the best of science and nature to connect people to the food they want in a sustainable and convenient format. Our clean, plant-based technology platform is based on the concept of a natural identical fruit.“
The second interdisciplinary research site of Mr. Edwards, who was awarded the order Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture for his publications, is located in the heart of Paris: Le Laboratoire. The epicentre for art, design and scientific experimentation, the concept of which is incorporated in his novella 'Niche', brings together researchers and creatives of all stripes - from music to visual arts to gastronomy. Their aim is to create something innovative through interaction. Exemplary for these collaborations across borders: WikiWater. Enclosed in a stretchable, ecological, airtight shell, the container called The Pumpkin can hold 15 litres, facilitates liquid transport and avoids plastic waste - an invention primarily intended for widespread use in developing countries.
David Edwards’ 2020 invention is called FEND. According to TIME magazine, this airway hydration product is “a drug-free salt- and calcium-based nasal mist that strengthens the mucus lining, helping it trap and flush out tiny pathogens. In a preliminary study, people who used FEND exhaled about 75% fewer aerosol particles than those who didn’t, suggesting it could be a worthy addition to the disease-prevention arsenal, along with handwashing, masking and social distancing.“
Given the range of his work, it is hardly surprising that some journalists have compared David A. Edwards to Willy Wonka, the ingenious company owner in Roald Dahl's classic children's book 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (turned into a popular movie by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp). Mr. Edwards lives with his wife and three sons in Paris and Boston. In his free time, the creative adventurer and free thinker can often be found on his Nordhavn trawler yacht in the harbour of the capital of the US state of Massachusetts.