Prospect Venture Partners’ Alex Barkas Dies Suddenly

11/22/11Follow @xconomy

Xconomy is sad to report that Alex Barkas, a prominent biotech venture capitalist with Prospect Venture Partners, died suddenly on Monday.

He was 64. The cause of death hasn’t been determined, but it was sudden and unexpected, said David Schnell, a longtime colleague and fellow managing director at Prospect.

“Alex was genuinely a wonderful person, partner and friend and will be missed by many,” Schnell said in an email.

Barkas was a managing director of all the Prospect funds, dating back to 1997, and before that was a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to his biography on the Prospect website. He served on the boards of multiple biotech companies over the years, including Geron (NASDAQ: GERN), Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM), Amicus, Tercica, and Novacept, among others.

Prospect posted a brief memorial to Barkas on its website, which said:

“Alex
 was 
an 
extraordinary father, 
and 
husband, 
friend
 and 
colleague, 
deeply 
admired 
and respected
 by 
all 
who had
 the special 
privilege 
to 
know 
and 
work 
with 
him,” the statement said. “Alex
 brought 
passion, 
wisdom, 
sincerity 
and 
an 
unrivaled love 
of 
life. 
Alex 
leaves 
behind 
for 
us 
a 
legacy 
of 
hope 
and 
commitment
 to 
achieve greatness 
with 
kindness, 
care 
and 
perseverance. 
He 
will 
be 
very 
deeply 
missed.”

Drew Senyei, the managing director at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital in San Diego, said he served on the Complete Genomics board with Barkas and knew him for 25 years. Here’s what he said in an e-mail this morning:

“The venture world lost too soon a true visionary who will be greatly missed by everyone he touched,” Senyei wrote. “Alex leaves a legacy of great companies in healthcare that were shaped by his passion for excellence and innovation. My deepest condolences for his family.”

Bob Nelsen, a managing director with Arch Venture Partners in Seattle, added: “Its a tragic loss for his family, friends and for the industry. Alex was one of the great early-stage biotech investors. He was not afraid to create companies that were against the conventional wisdom, and he was more often right.”

If you have any memories of your experiences with Barkas you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below.

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  • Hilary Cooper

    I had the pleasure of being Alex’s travel agent over the past many years and I am so sorry to hear of his passing. He was a good man and he will be missed. My condolences go out to his family.

  • Eugene Bauer

    How terribly sad! Alex was the lead investor in Connetics and was a wise counselor, director and wonderful colleague through evolution of the company. He was also a good friend. Lynda, i am truly sorry for your loss.

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  • Anonymous

    Alex was extremely generous and genuine. He was a very caring man. He was one of my mentors. He took the time out of his busy schedule to give me the advice and support I needed. Alex’s benign character will be missed by many.

  • Vishal Patel

    Alex was a wonderful man. He had great passion for the life sciences and for helping entrepreneurs succeed. I had the pleasure of receiving guidance from Alex. Alex was very insightful and wise. He was a very genuine man with a big heart. I would like to send my deepest condolences to the Barkas family.

  • Frank Foster

    I have had the pleasure of serving on a Board with Alex for the past several years. Although the investment did not go as planned, Alex was always thoughtful and composed throughout a frustrating process. A real measure of a venture capitalist is not how they behave in good times but how they deal with challenging situations and how they choose to treat the entrepeneurs and fellow investors. Alex was one of the “good guys” in our business- smart, strategic and a real gentleman. I will miss him and the venture capital business will truly miss him.

  • http://www.arboretumvc.com George Dunbar

    Linda- Alex left us way too soon. He will be missed.

  • Ellen Lubman

    Linda-my deepest condolences. I feel so blessed to have spent a few days with you and Alex and your amazing, beautiful and fun daughters in June. Alex will be missed. He was a wonderful friend, mentor and investor. He was a rare human being who, in addition to being a genius, was very warm and genuine with a big heart. He will be missed.

  • Charlotte Clark

    I first met Alex (and Linda) when I was at Cygnus in the late 1980′s. Alex and I continued to be friends, sharing an investment and comparing notes at the annual JP Morgan conference. Linda, my deepest condolences: he was a thoughtful, insightful person and a great guy. He will be missed.

  • David U’Prichard

    My heart goes out to you Lynda. Alex was a very kind man, a real mensch. Meeting him a number of times in recent years, seeking his advice, I felt we were becoming close friends. Lisa and I offer our deepest condolences. We will miss him.

  • David Abraham

    I met Alex years ago. He was kind enough to explain the nature of venture investing to me, even though I was a complete noob. He had a favorite expression: “Life is long.” I wish, in his case, that it was longer. I’ll miss him.

  • Anon

    I did not know Alex well – I only met him 3 or 4 times – but I found him to be an extremely open minded and generous person. He was a genuinely nice guy. I wish I had the chance to get to know him better. Life is too short.

  • muhair

    I drove with Alex and another student from Berkeley to Kentucky in the summer of 1974. He was heading back to Duke. I’ll never forget seeing fireflies for the first time at a campground in Wichita or his bracing challenges to every assumption. Never forgot him, did the google thing, and am shocked both by the loftiness of his achievement and the tragedy of his early death.