The unconventional David Edwards
March 04, 2013
Dreaming large, bioengineer links art, science, and commerce (Boston Globe)
The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Boston Globe on March 3, 2013.
By Scott Kirsner
If you removed Willy Wonka from his chocolate factory, planted him on the Harvard campus, and gave him an ever-present five o’clock shadow, you’d be only part of the way to getting David Edwards. Edwards may be the most entrepreneurial member of the Harvard faculty, with start-ups developing drugs for cystic fibrosis, selling a novel kind of energy shot, and perfecting food packaging that you can eat. (Think grapes filled with gazpacho.)
He splits his time between Paris and Boston, and in 2007 opened up Le Laboratoire, a new kind of collaboration space and gallery in Paris that blends science, art, and commerce. A Cambridge version, The Lab Cambridge, is in the works for 2014.
It can be hard to know whether to take Edwards seriously when he talks about using smartphones to send odors wirelessly, or designing an aromatic language that could be understood just as biologists understand the language of DNA. But Edwards was among the youngest people ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering, at 39. His first company, Advanced Inhalation Research, was acquired for $114 million, two years after it was founded.
“He’s perceived as the rock star at Harvard, and the kids who end up in his class are these nonconventional, learn-by-doing dreamers,” says Tom Hadfield, a former student who runs one of Edwards’s start-ups, AeroDesigns.