Renowned chemist and researcher Boxin Ou, PhD, passed away on May 13, 2015, at the age of 49. Ou was a leading expert on antioxidants and the chief inventor of the Brunswick ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) method. His research covered traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) botanical formulations as well as many of the products commonly labeled “superfoods” because of their antioxidant capacities, such as açaí (Euterpe oleracea, Arecaceae) berry, green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), and grape (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae) seed extract.
Born in Beijing, China, Ou graduated from the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, one of China’s oldest educational programs for TCM, and became a pharmacist. After practicing pharmacy for several years, he earned his master’s degree in phytochemistry from the China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing and immigrated to the United States. In 2000, Ou earned his PhD in medicinal analytical chemistry from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
In 1997, Ou became one of the founding scientists of Brunswick Laboratories, Inc., in Southborough, Massachusetts, and served as chief science officer until 2012. While at Brunswick Labs, his team of scientists pioneered innovations in antioxidant testing and bioanalytical services that quickly and efficiently demonstrate the efficacy of natural products. “Boxin was a key collaborator in our early efforts in the 1990s to characterize the antioxidant capacity of açaí,” wrote Alexander Schauss, PhD, senior director of research and CEO at AIBMR Life Sciences, Inc. (email, December 19, 2015). “He was meticulous in performing his duties as a chemist.”
Working closely with the US Department of Agriculture’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center on an eight-year series of studies of the antioxidant capacities of a wide range of foods, Ou helped improve and validate the ORAC method. This quickly became an international testing standard, and Brunswick Labs currently contracts with some of the largest food production companies in the world, helping to develop functional and medicinal products. From his work related to the ORAC method, Ou obtained two patents: “Method for assaying the antioxidant capacity of a sample” in 2002, and “Method for assaying the antioxidant capacity of a skin care product” in 2008.
After leaving Brunswick Labs in 2012, Ou co-founded International Chemistry Testing in Milford, Massachusetts, to explore his interests beyond the chemistry of free radicals. As president and CEO, he presided over the company, which specializes in bioactivity testing, botanical ingredient authentication, and contract research. He also served as the director of Dover Sciences at the time of his death. In 2014, he was included on the list of “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters.
Ou was a popular lecturer and served on the editorial boards of Food Chemistry and Current Nutrition and Food Science. He also authored or co-authored more than 30 manuscripts concerning the antioxidant capacities of a variety of different botanicals.
Ou is survived by his wife, Donghong “Cathy” Zeng; son, Isaac; brother, Boyi; and parents, Qingxian Ou and Tao Gao. His family held a private funeral service honoring his life on May 23, 2015, in Franklin, Massachusetts.