David Walter Barry

David Walter Barry

Died January 28, 2002

David excelled academically throughout primary and high school, graduating at the top of his class at Nashua Senior High in Nashua, NH, and was the second in his family to attend Yale. (His brother Tom, Y ’64, preceded him.) As an undergraduate he held the William L. Learned Scholarship, fenced (won numerals in his freshman year), rowed varsity crew and played oboe in what was known by some even then as the Yale Marching Farce as well as the Yale Concert Band. Although his passion for French led him to spend his junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris and graduate magna cum laude from Yale with a B.A. in French literature, he also took and excelled in the requisite science courses to be accepted by Yale Medical School.

While at Yale Medical School, David worked in the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit with Wilbur Downs (Yellow Fever) and Jordi Casals (Lassa Fever), both of whom sparked in David a passion for infectious diseases, leading him toward becoming Board Certified in that field. In 1972 he became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, where he was deputy director of the Division of Virology; and director of the Influenza Vaccine Task Force, Bureau of Biologics, FDA in Bethesda, MD.

David was recruited in 1977 by Burroughs-Wellcome Co. in Research Triangle Park, NC, to start its Anti-Infectives Section. There he worked on Zovirax, a medicine for herpes, with Nobel Prize recipients Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings, and in the late 1980s co-developed AZT, the first effective drug treatment for HIV. In 1994, David became Worldwide director of research, development and medical affairs and president of the Wellcome Research Laboratories in London. In 1996, he became chairman of the Inter-Company Collaboration on AIDS Drug Development, a group of physicians/scientists from fifteen pharmaceutical companies working on AIDS treatments.

Following Glaxo’s takeover of Wellcome in 1997, David founded his own company, Triangle Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Despite its humble beginnings around a kitchen table, Triangle quickly established itself as a pioneer in developing antiretrovirals and went public just over a year later, based on great success in developing novel approaches to treatments for serious, chronic viral diseases, specifically HIV and Hepatitis B. One of the more promising HIV compounds was Emtriva, which was approved by the FDA five months after David’s unexpected death from a heart attack while on a business trip in January 2002. Soon thereafter, Gilead Sciences acquired Triangle and created the combination therapy or cocktail drug now known as Truvada. David had been an early advocate of the cocktail treatment, using AZT in combination with other drugs to reduce the risk of patients developing AIDS and of infected mothers transmitting the virus to their babies. Truvada is one of the most effective and widely used AIDS medicines on the market today. Although he knew a cure for AIDS was unlikely, David wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of AIDS patients. Thanks in part to his innovative efforts, AIDS is now considered a manageable chronic disease where patients can expect to live healthy lives.

David passed away on January 28, 2002 and was survived by his wife, Gracia Chin Barry, Mount Holyoke ’66, children Chris (Ashley) Barry and Jen (Michael) Baucom, and four granddaughters who are proud to continue his legacy of service, learning, and adventure.

Gracia remembers: “At David’s memorial service, his friends and family heard about his many accomplishments in science and medicine. But his co-workers also got to hear about the other side of David – the loving and doting grandfather, the bilingual Renaissance man who was a self-taught master woodworker and voracious reader, and the good ol’ boy who had a weakness for bird dogs, quail hunting, and flytying and fishing. His voyages took him from the North Carolina coast to Alaska, Costa Rica, Mongolia, and everywhere in between – often gamely accompanied by his wife and family.”

For Gracia, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words aptly describe David: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”