Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Dr. David W. Barry, the founder of Triangle Pharmaceuticals and a pioneer in the fight against AIDS, died of a heart attack in January 2002. Soon, the remnants of his company will disappear from the Triangle as well.

One has to wonder had Barry not died while on a business trip to California if the future of Triangle might not have turned into a success story, not into an acquisition and – as of the end of the year – disappearance from the Triangle.

More importantly, how did his death at age 58 affect the war against AIDS?

Sadly, we’ll never know.

What we do know is that Barry’s death opened the door to many changes at Triangle, once one of the region’s emerging life science stars.

Not that long after Barry’s death, Triangle was acquired by California-based Gilead. The Triangle name disappeared, but Gilead maintained an antiviral group at Triangle’s facilities in Durham.

Gilead’s confirmation to Local Tech Wire and on Thursday that it in Durham this year brings a very sad, sad Triangle story to a dismal close.

Barry’s death was one of the first major stories reported by Local Tech Wire, which was launched in that same month.

What follows is a reprint of that story here as it seems the best way to express appreciation for Dr. Barry, his work, and the legacy of Triangle Pharmaceuticals.

David Barry, Renowned Veteran in War vs. AIDS and Founder of Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Dies

 DURHAM — Dr. David W. Barry, a pioneer in the war against AIDS and the founder and chief executive of Triangle Pharmaceuticals Inc., died Monday night apparently of a heart attack while on business in California.

The news of the 58-year-old Barry’s death stunned the Durham company as well as his extensive network of friends and colleagues in the life sciences industry.

"He’s a long-time friend and I am deeply shocked by the news," said Dr. Dino Dina, chief executive officer of Dynavax Technologies in California. Barry and Dina met in 1983 while conducting HIV research. Barry had served on the Dynavax board of directors since March 2000 in support a partnership between the firm and Triangle in working toward a commercialized drug therapy for hepatitis B, Dina added.

Barry was in California for a board meeting with Dina, said Triangle’s chief financial officer Robert Amundsen. Amundsen said Barry appeared to have suffered a heart attack.

"Dave was very committed to our work, and he will be sorely missed," said Dina. "We do have a strong collaboration with Triangle and look forward to continuing our relationship."

Employees who worked with him are saddened by Barry’s death.

Chris Rallis, president and chief operating officer of Triangle, said in a statement:

"Those of us who have worked with him at Triangle had great admiration for him as a person and the utmost respect for his leadership. We will miss him both personally and professionally."

Amundsen, in an interview with LocalTechWire, concurred.

"Dave was a visionary and a wealth of knowledge to the industry," Amundsen said. "There is a seasoned team of executives here at Triangle that are committed to carrying out his vision for the company."

The company issued a brief press release Tuesday morning and then kept its Web site offline much of the day.

Sadly, on Jan. 17, Triangle announced it was moving a step closer toward one of Barry’s goals, saying it planned to file a new drug application with the Federal Drug Administration for Coviracil. Coviracil is being tested as a treatment for HIV.
Internationally recognized in the field of antiviral therapy and as a successful entrepreneur, Barry had served as chief executive officer of Triangle for the past seven years.

Barry, who had a three-decade career in biotech research and development, working as an executive for Wellcome plc, was one of the co-inventors of the first anti-HIV drug, AZT, and he directed the clinical development of the first selective anti-herpes drug, acyclovir.

"David Barry was one of the country’s leading pharmaceutical development authorities," said Dr. Charles E. Hamner, president and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. "He combined good scientific knowledge with outstanding business abilities. His death is a tremendous loss to the worldwide biotechnology community."

Founded in 1995 with Barry at the helm, Triangle has developed new drug candidates on therapies for HIV, including AIDS, and the hepatitis B virus. The company has an existing portfolio of six licensed drug candidates in clinical trials and several drug candidates that are in a pre-clinical stage.

The company went public in 1996 and trades under the symbol VIRS on NASDAQ.

Prior to founding Triangle, Barry spent 18 years with London-based Wellcome plc and its subsidiaries holding a variety of executive-level positions including president of The Wellcome Research Laboratories and worldwide group director of research development and medical affairs for the Wellcome Foundation. Barry left the company and formed Triangle when Glaxo acquired Burroughs Wellcome.

Before joining Burroughs Wellcome, Barry spent five years at the FDA in various capacities, including director positions at The Bureau of Biologics. Barry also served as chairman of the Inter-Company Collaboration on AIDS Drug Development, and was a member of the boards of directors of Family Health international and Molecular Biosystems. He received both his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from Yale University.

Barry is survived by his wife Gracia, two children, Jennifer Baucom and Christopher Barry and one grandchild.

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