The fabled Fountain of Youth may be just a fantasy, but the discoveries of biochemist Dr. Loren Pickart actually may help mere mortals banish wrinkles, sun damage and other signs of aging. Through research that began in the 1970s, Loren discovered a revolutionary copper peptide complex that has been shown to help those over age 35 achieve younger-looking skin. If this sounds like something you'd like to get your hands on, you're not alone. Loren has founded two companies to develop products that contain this type of copper peptide; in addition, it is available at drugstores in skin-care products made by American Crew, Neutrogena and other cosmetic companies. Today, his research continues. "One of my goals is to give every woman the skin of a 17-year-old girl," he says.

Loren's interest in medical research took root as a child growing up in the Minnesota heartland. "When I was 10 years old, I got a serious throat infection that had me in the bed for two weeks," he says. "Then the doctor gave me a shot of penicillin, and I was up and around within the hour." The idea that the discovery of penicillin could have such a powerful impact on healthcare left a lasting impression on Loren. As a young adult, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota with the intent of making a career of medical research. After talking to the medical researchers on campus, he decided to concentrate his studies on a relatively new field: human aging. "This was the '60s, when medical researchers believed they would find a cure for cancer and heart disease in the next 10 years," he says. "I decided to study human aging instead, because that way I would always have a job."

Once Loren graduated from UM with a degree in chemistry and math, he began working at a gerontological research laboratory in Santa Barbara that studied human aging. After a few years, he moved to San Francisco to pursue his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California San Francisco. At UCSF, the research that he would dedicate his professional life to took shape. "I was searching for something that would reverse the effects of aging," he explains. "In looking at the blood, I saw that younger blood grows cells better than older blood. The question was, why?" The answer (and subject of Loren's thesis) was a small copper peptide complex that keeps cells alive longer. Through years of research, working with both UCSF and the University of Washington, Loren discovered that this type of copper peptide has powerful healing and tissue remodeling properties.


The second chemist in the family: daughter Francoise, a chemistry major at the University of Washington, with faculty members at the University of Reims, France.

In 1980, Loren moved to Bellevue to be closer to the UW Chemistry Department. He founded a biotech company, ProCyte Corporation, to develop what he now calls his "first generation" of copper peptide products. In several clinical studies set up by Loren, the results were promising: the copper peptide complex was shown to reverse many of the signs of aging, including wrinkles and sun damage. In 1989, Loren took ProCyte public on NASDAQ.

Two years later, tragedy struck. While at the airport during a strenuous business trip, Loren developed a blood clot, a life-threatening condition that required cardiac surgery and extensive rehabilitation. "I decided to leave ProCyte in order to concentrate on my health," he says. Today ProCyte is profitable from licensing patented technology and selling its own products ---the Neova line for cosmetic skin renewal, the Complex Cu3 line to improve skin healing after dermatological procedures and Graftcyte for increasing the success of hair transplant grafts.


Charlene, Francoise, and Genevieve in Athens

In 1994, with his health restored, Loren joined with wife Charlene ---a UCSF graduate with a master's in mother-infant nursing whom Loren met while attending the university--- to form a second biotech company, Skin Biology. "After testing about 200 different copper complexes, I found a special fraction of peptides from soy proteins that possesses remarkable skin regeneration properties," he says. Skin Biology is currently patenting and test marketing various products built around this second, more effective generation of copper peptides. To date, the market for these products has been largely cosmetic; for example, they are useful for skin recovery after such cosmetic treatments such as skin peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. Loren says future goals include developing a product for pre-ulcer dermatitis and, on a larger scale, putting together a complete picture of how the copper peptide works in the human body.

In the meantime, Skin Biology's existing products, which include skin creams, exfoliators and acne serums, continue to gain popularity through word of mouth. "I get calls from 24-year-old models who have heard about our products," says Loren, who adds that those over age 35 will see the most dramatic results.

"Women who start using the skin cream notice that their skin looks better. Then they put it on everything: their faces, hands, feet, husband, children, pets and plants," he quips. You can read more about Skin Biology and its products at www.skinbiology.com

When not searching for ways to restore the perfect peaches-and-cream complexion, Loren can be found traveling with Charlene and their three daughters Germaine, Francoise and Genevieve; enjoying a meal or taking a sauna at the Club; or cruising to the family's vacation home on San Juan Island on his boat, Regenerate. "I'm 65 years old; I want to enjoy life," he says. Reflecting on his days at UCSF, he recalls how the university's Biochemistry Department operated with the ideology that one should never do something unless he or she has fun doing it. Says Loren, "Scientists are like clergymen; they never really retire. I'm lucky that I enjoy what I do."