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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

University ties help build post-university career

Here, Gillings describes the work of his corporation as outsourcing because big pharmaceutical corporations contracted with Quintiles to research drugs. He notes a few reasons for why corporations might have contracted him to do their research, including that his position as a professor lent him an air of independence and credibility.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: Tell me about building an entrepreneurial business in the mid-‘80s in this part of North Carolina. DG: It wasn't very common, that's for sure. At least I didn't meet many other people that did it. Maybe it was more common than I realize, what with my contacts being mainly academic. You tend to stay often within your contacts. I suppose the other part of that is my business wasn't all that easy to describe. We were doing what we commonly call now “outsourcing” for the pharmaceutical industry in drug development. At that time, for anyone to imagine that a big company like Glaxo might contract with someone like me to analyze their studies didn't seem feasible because why wouldn't they do it themselves? So, it was quite hard to explain. In point of fact, the explanation then was far different from what it would be now because, I think it's fair to say, Gary and I had a lot of skills. We probably had more skills than was present in most big pharmaceutical companies at that time, so we were able to bring a skill level to the data that was presented to the Food and Drug Administration that was a step up. Now a days, of course, there's a lot more trained people and a lot more of that skill level would be resident in the major companies. JM: Were you ever offered the opportunity to come in house by anyone of them? DG: Yes, yes. JM: So people saw that as something that might make sense--. DG: That's correct. For me, it was a much better life being a professor with the consulting than actually working for a corporation. JM: Why were they outsourcing? [Was it] just a matter of not having the in-house expertise? Why didn't they go out and get it? DG: We tended to specialize in those early years in things that were quite hard problems. Just take the fifty-six deaths. I don't know whether anyone in the company would've solved that. Perhaps on the one hand there wasn't the confidence. Then, on the other hand, there's always this thing -- an external person that's a professor has a reputation and an independence that lends greater weight to the conclusion. That's one of those inescapable things that often happens.