Alumnus tests Covid nasal spray at his alma mater

Grand Rapids Community College graduate David Edwards stops by his alma mater to test a new drug to fight Covid.

David Edwards’ educational journey started at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Michigan and eventually led to him teach at Harvard University. Now he is working on slowing the spread of Covid-19 with a little help from his alma mater.

Edwards, an aerosol scientist and inventor who has taught in Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is CEO of Sensory Cloud, a Boston-based technology startup company designing solutions to problems of wellbeing and healthcare focusing on respiratory biology. FEND is one of his products. It is an over-the-counter saline mist inhaled through the nose, slowing down or stopping various aerosol molecules from entering the nasal passage.

Edwards believes FEND can slow the spread of Covid, especially when used in conjunction with face coverings, social distancing and other precautions. GRCC students this week have an opportunity to participate in a national study to test that.

“We are excited to be a part of this study because the safety and wellness of our community is paramount,” said GRCC President Bill Pink. “But it is also inspiring to see how a GRCC graduate is playing a role in battling this pandemic.”

GRCC President Bill Pink interviews Sensory Cloud CEO David Edwards

The son of former GRCC chemistry professor Ronald Edwards, David Edwards said the Michigan college is special to him, which is why he asked if the college could be the Midwest location for a study on the product.

“I’m really thrilled to be coming back and to lead this opportunity for this really important hygiene Covid-19 study,” he said. “This is about hygiene and how we can lead the cleanest possible lives we can on campus and off. We’re learning a lot about what that means, and there are important breakthroughs all around us.”

Many years in the making

Edwards started working on the product several years ago in response to threats from anthrax. He believes it can be effective in thwarting Covid infection. His study will consider the air around us and droplets formed in our lungs, and how they can be a factor in spreading the virus. 

“There’s no panacea here as far as avoiding infection,” he said. “There are four elements of good hygiene. One is hand sanitizing. The second is obviously masks. The third is social distancing. And the fourth now is airway cleansing. All four of those are important. It’s like a series of walls we’ve set up to protect ourselves.”

After graduating from what was then Grand Rapids Junior College in 1981, Edwards earned a baccalaureate from the Michigan Technological University and a doctorate from the Illinois Institute of Technology, both in chemical engineering. He then taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Penn State University, and in 2020 joined the Harvard faculty for a 16-year stay.

Through Sensory Cloud, Edwards explores ways of delivering health and wellness, often through the air, in drug, vaccine, food and scent forms, and with environmental sustainability. He has earned international recognition, including such as honors as the Chevalier of Arts & Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, membership in the National Academies of Engineering in the United States and France, and membership in the National Academy of Inventors. 

About the Author

David Murray
is director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.