He's invented breathable food, flavor clouds and olfactory telephones. Now David Edwards is bringing edible food-packaging to the table.
Called Wikipearl, the wrapping is held together by calcium ions and can include particles of chocolate, nuts and seeds. The idea came out of a conversation Edwards, professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard, had with a sculptor about the concept of tensegrity.
"It's a really interesting property and relevant in terms of rethinking our packaging," he says. "Suddenly packaging becomes part of the culinary experience." Wikipearl ice cream and yoghurt were launched in selected Paris stores last June.
Edwards began as a biomedical engineer in universities including MIT and Penn State. He left the latter in 1998 after he came up with the idea for inhalable insulin and was approached by Polaris Venture Partners to start a company, Advanced Inhalation Research, with three friends from MIT. It was sold in 1999 to biopharma company Alkermes.
After three more years in academia at Harvard, Edwards left in 2005 for a sabbatical in Paris. "I had a nebular notion to create an experimental cultural organization in the center of Paris," says Edwards, whose book, ArtScience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation, was published in 2008.
He founded Le Laboratoire, a contemporary art and design center, in 2007. The first products to come out of Le Lab were Andrea, a plant-based air filter, and LeWhif, a chocolate inhaler. "Our first products were viewed as whimsical and provocative and not taken seriously as commercial products," says Edwards. "Our commercial success now is completely based on being able to not care about the market and play with ideas."
Edwards says the AeroShot, an air-based energy shot with 100mg of caffeine plus B vitamins, will be in 50,000 stores by the end of the year. Also, last May, he opened an exhibition around the OPHONE, a device that allows users to send olfactory messages. "I'm fascinated by olfactive communication," says Edwards. "More than visual and auditory, it has real physiological impact."