If you haven't accomplished enough in your life, it may be because you're not getting enough caffeine. David Edwards starts his days with a couple of shots of espresso, and by the afternoon he is more or less inhaling caffeine.
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The result has been impressive for a Midwestern boy from Ann Arbor, Mich., who admits he used to drag along in school.
Now, at 50 years of age, Edwards has published papers, books and novels. He's earned a PhD in chemical engineering. He teaches bioengineering at Harvard University, but he lives in Paris, where he is married to a French woman and serves as director of Le Laboratoire, a contemporary art and design center. His life's work spans the arts and sciences, from the culinary to the pharmaceutical. And lately he's been spinning off his greatest ideas into venture-capital-financed companies.
One of these companies is peddling an alarming new product called Aeroshot.
It comes in what looks like a shotgun shell. You huff on it like a pipe for an instant blast of caffeine powder. It's now on sale for $2.99 in Boston and New York, and at www.aeroshots.com.
So far, sales have been brisk, Edwards says. His product targets the young and the experimental, from college kids to 30-somethings--you know, the same people you see downing shots of 5-Hour Energy or slamming cans of Red Bull, Rockstar and Reload.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls Aeroshot a "club drug" and a "party enhancer." Schumer has asked the Food and Drug Administration to have a look at it. A similar request the senator once made put a sudden end to the idea of loading malt liquor drinks with caffeine, such as Jooze and Four Loko. Thanks to Schumer, consumers now have to find a corner where there is both a bar and a Starbucks.
Schumer is afraid children may get their hands on this stuff. "This was an easy shot for him," Edwards says. "We completely agree with the senator that encouraging caffeine use among kids is not healthy, and it's not what we want to do."
For all of Schumer's grandstanding, Aeroshot is but an incremental technological improvement that merely changes the delivery mechanism of a substance found in Coke and Pepsi.
Why do we have to drink caffeine? Why not huff it like glue? Snort it like cocaine? Smoke it crystal meth? Or shoot it up like speed? How else are we supposed to get our work done?
Edwards says it's not quite like that. With Aeroshot, no caffeine enters lungs because the grains are too large to go down the windpipes, he says. The act of breathing simply coats the mouth and tongue, where the caffeine powder is quickly absorbed.
Each tube comes with 100 milligrams, or about the same dose as a cup of coffee. Since it's typically consumed in multiple breaths, consumers can more easily control their intake.
"This helps you use caffeine more wisely," Edwards says. "You take what you need when you need it, and you can actually get more for less."
I can't be sure how much of this stuff Edwards has inhaled, but some of his ideas seem a little trippy. One of his works of fiction, for instance, explores the question of whether an artist would discover the meaning of intelligence if he became a stem cell and then divided into a neuron.
Edwards also has invented breathable chocolate. "It's chocolate stimulation without the calories of pure chocolate," he explains.
And Edwards is developing breathable medicines, breathable vitamins, breathable foods and even breathable cocktails. The breathable caffeine, he says, was just to target a market where he thought he could get instant traction. At least he got instant Congressional attention.
"Inevitably, there are those who are comfortable with this, and those who are not," Edwards says. "We think this is a billion-dollar business."
That's more than enough to keep him up at night.
"There's a long history of caffeine being a creative stimulant," he says. "It's probably part of the reason why I only sleep five hours a night....I'm not a big sleeper."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)