By Lauren K. OhnesorgeStaff Writer-
Triangle Business Journal

Robot scientist-turned food entrepreneur Edison Hudson is doubling down on Research Triangle Park.

Hudson, CEO of Durham-based Panacea Biomatx, just picked up the keys of a new Davis Drive location, a space formerly occupied by Advanced Liquid Logic.

Add in a new acquisition – that of Next Generation Snacks, a British manufacturer of Smooch-branded “super-food” snacks, and the ten-man team is readying to manufacture.

It’s a complete pivot from what brought Hudson to the Triangle in the first place,iRobot, the makers of robot vaccum Roomba. IRobot entered the Triangle scene in 2008 with the $10 million purchase of Nekton Research, and Hudson trekked down from Boston to run the new operation. When iRobot decided to close the Nekton doors in 2012, Hudson decided to stay. His goal? To combine Triangle’s strengths of data analysis, pharma and informatics – three things the area “does better than Silicon Valley.”

The result? Panacea.

But something was missing.

“We were looking for a food product filler that would meet certain criteria that would work with our own process,” he says. That’s when he met Carlo Buckley, managing director of British firm Next Generation Snacks, at an event in New York. “We started corresponding… They were trying to raise funds in the United States, but struck out… We were looking for someone to provide us with a component of our product.”

So a marriage was formed.

Smooch products, according to the company, contain real fruit “with no added concentrates or water.”

Hudson, who founded Panacea with GlaxoSmithKline alum L. Staton Noel, says he’s created a patent pending system to replace the need for a person to take multiple vitamin pills a day. He does it by combining active ingredients into a single serving packet, to be blended with a “good tasting” filler such as what’s in the Smooch brand.

The firm received an NC Idea Grant in 2013 and is supported by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

According to Hudson, a Series A funding round over the summer was oversubscribed at more than $1 million.

It’s not Hudson’s first startup. Other projects include Chapel Hill-based MetaControl Technologies.

Lauren Ohnesorge covers information technology and entrepreneurship.