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David Barnes: 1961–2019

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David Barnes, PhD, died unexpectedly at the age of 57 on February 27, 2019, at his home in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. Barnes was a natural products researcher who sought to inspire consumer trust with verified data and focused on the study of the gut microbiome and its role in health and wellness.

Barnes was born on September 9, 1961, in Newton, Massachusetts. He grew up in California and attended the University of California – Davis for his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, the latter in nutritional biochemistry. After earning his PhD, he eventually returned to academia for an MBA with a focus on international business at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. He taught as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison from 2000 to 2004.Barnes entered the natural products industry in 2004, serving as the director of research and development at Standard Process, a dietary supplement manufacturer based in Palmyra, Wisconsin. During his 10 years at the company, Barnes oversaw the clinical study of ingredients used in Standard Process product lines, providing evidence-based research and publishing multiple papers. His interest in the synergistic effects of the constituents in food ingredients led to the study of glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables, aqueous mushroom extracts, antioxidants from buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum, Polygonaceae), and the interaction of probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fibers on gut flora, for example.

Barnes’ expertise was highly sought, and during a keynote speech at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Spring 2011 Research Symposium, he was quoted as saying: “While the current paradigm in scientific research has served us well to this point, now we have a great opportunity to look at research in a new way. In fact, I argue that we must shift from a reductionist perspective to a more holistic view if we are to understand the complex interactions between our food and our health.”1

This holistic approach defined Barnes’s philosophy toward his work. Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance and a close friend of Barnes, commented: “When [David] and I would have long talks, it would be about the industry. What does all this mean? How do we think about the work that we do? … He always believed that we should be able to raise people’s hopes and expectations for what natural health products can do, but we needed to back it up, go beyond our beliefs and be able to show meaningful evidence” (oral communication, September 29, 2019). Barnes left Standard Process to serve as the chief operating officer of Marine Ingredients, a manufacturer of fish oil ingredients. The market knowledge and business relationships Barnes built, including with Danish researcher and fish oil pioneer Jørn Dyerberg, MD, gave Marine Ingredients a high-profile and excellent reputation. When the company, now known as KD Nutra, merged with KD Pharma Group, Barnes became the head of global research and development at KD Pharma. He held this position from January 2017 until his death. In this role, he continued to study and produce nutraceutical and veterinary products with an emphasis on omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

In his personal life, Barnes is remembered as a kind man who chose happiness. Israelsen recalled: “He was a lovely guy. A true gentleman and scholar, by the classic definition. Very accomplished, multiple interests and hobbies, just a very well-rounded guy. Modest — you’d never know that he had such a distinguished background. He was the guy who would listen and watch, and then have a wise perspective at the end.”

David Barnes was an avid biker, marathoner, and aspiring chef who built his own pizza kiln and loved to entertain his friends and family. He was predeceased by his sister Debbie and is survived by his parents Peter and Judith; Cassandra, his wife of 26 years; children Gabriella and Jacob; and siblings Laura Barnes, Jessica Green-Barnes, and Ken Barnes. Reference

  1. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Research Symposium Features Dr. David Barnes of Standard Process Inc. [press release] April 14, 2011. Palmyra, WI: Standard Process, Inc. Available at: www.standardprocess.com/About-Us/Newsroom/Research-Symposium-Features-Dr-David-Barnes. Accessed October 15, 2019.