The announcement that Quintiles founder Dr. Dennis Gillings, CBE, Ph.D., will retire from his position as executive chairman of Quintiles Transnational Holdings at the end of this year is causing a stir in and around the CRO industry.
Although Gillings will remain on the board as a director, and the board has appointed Jack M. Greenberg to serve as chairman effective Jan. 1, the news marks the end of an era for Quintiles.
CRO observers and industry veterans alike offered words of praise for Gillings, who founded the company 33 years ago.
Michael Martorelli, a director at independent investment banking firm Fairmount Partners who has followed industry trends for years, described Gillings as “one of a handful of pioneers” who virtually invented the entire industry and helped make CROs what they are today.
“You can’t say enough about how meaningful he has been to the CRO industry,” he said. “You can’t give him enough credit.”
Martorelli said Gillings was successful because “he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right idea, and he was passionate about it.” He added that while Quintiles may have hit a bump or two in the 1990s, Gillings “found more that worked than didn’t work.”
Mark Lacy, CEO of Benchmark Research, a large multi-site clinical trial operation, voiced similar sentiments.
“Dennis Gillings’ life represents the American dream,” he said. “He started out in a trailer doing statistical and data management—and out of that effort, the CRO industry was born.
“Dennis is a man who had the vision to transform a small statistical consulting firm into a 32,000-strong clinical research behemoth. Under his leadership, Quintiles blossomed from a highly focused consulting operation into a contract research organization capable of project management, lab work, QA/QC, sales, marketing, and more. As a result, others in the industry were able to get a clearer picture of the potential depth and breadth of their work, ultimately transforming the CRO space into what we see today.”
“Dr. Gillings’ legacy leaves a lasting mark on the life science industry and overall healthcare ecosystem,” said Jennifer Byrne, CEO of PMG Research, an integrated network of clinical research facilities. “Over the past 25 years, Quintiles has set the standard and subsequently, year over year, raised the bar for pharma and health service providers.”
Several of Gillings’ fellow CRO veterans also were asked for their thoughts. While they generally expressed admiration for him, they would not go on the record for this story.
Gillings began performing biostatistical analysis work for pharmaceutical companies with a single project in 1974 while he was still a professor of biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That small consulting business, which would become Quintiles, began with a handful of staff members who worked out of a trailer on the UNC campus.
Quintiles was incorporated as a privately held company in 1982. Since then, it has grown from that small collection of statisticians and college students into the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical services and a Fortune 500 company with nearly 35,000 employees conducting business in 100 countries.
Gillings took Quintiles public through its first initial public offering (IPO) in 1994, and then led a leveraged buyout to take the company private again in 2003. Quintiles remained a private company for 10 years until its second IPO in 2013. Gillings served as CEO for nearly three decades until current CEO Tom Pike’s arrival in 2012.
During Gillings’ tenure, Quintiles began its international expansion in 1987, moving into clinical drug development in 1988 and commercialization services in 1996. Just 16 years after incorporation, the company recorded more than $1 billion in service revenue. Last year, it earned $4.2 billion in service revenue.
“Quintiles grew very quickly and consistently from its beginnings in 1982,” Gillings said in a prepared statement. “It has been a memorable ride to get to our multibillion-dollar status today, and I feel privileged to have led this journey. However, I believe there is so much more to come. I wish Tom and our management team great success navigating our next era of opportunities so that patients are able to access fast-moving medical advances more easily, timely and cost effectively. Thank you, employees, for making all this possible.”
Pike cited Gillings’ continuing importance to the company, saying, “Dennis recognized that a company such as Quintiles could become a true partner with its biopharmaceutical customers rather than a task manager, and provide a plethora of value-added services from product development and commercialization to advisory, regulatory and real-world, late phase services. We are proud to have him as our founder, and will continue to seek his guidance as he continues his work with the Quintiles board.”
Regarding the future of Gillings’ company, Fairmount’s Martorelli said Quintiles has been moving more into the integrated health services segment since Pike came aboard. “This is an evolution of Quintiles—it makes sense for them,” he noted. “Clinical research is not currently embedded into healthcare delivery. That’s going to change, and Quintiles is right there. Quintiles is at the beginning of it.”
“I think his stepping down will have little impact on Quintiles,” Benchmark’s Lacy said of Gillings. “I think Quintiles will continue to ride the crest of success, but his impact will be felt for years to come. He leaves behind a true symbol of the American success story.”
PMG’s Byrne said, “The greatest testament to Dr. Gillings’ leadership is in his commitment to bring forth Tom Pike as his successor. Tom carries forth Dennis’ pioneering spirit, connectedness, and both social and economic responsibility to improving global health and well-being.”
This article was reprinted from Volume 19, Issue 45, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »