Gillings appointed by UK’s prime minister to accelerate diagnosis, treatment, cure for dementia

March 10, 2014

Dennis Gillings, PhD, has been appointed by United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron to serve as World Dementia Envoy. In that role, Gillings will establish and lead a World Dementia Council to raise funds for research toward a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Dr. Dennis Gillings

Dr. Dennis Gillings

Gillings, founder and executive chair of Quintiles, the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services, and benefactor of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is a biostatistician who is expert in the workings of clinical trials. He served as a faculty member in the UNC biostatistics department for more than 15 years.

“Dementia is a costly and heartbreaking epidemic with an immense impact,” said Margaret Chan, MD, director general of the World Health Organization. “We need to accelerate research for new interventions, to find ways to improve the quality of life and care, and to do more to support care-givers and families. I welcome the appointment of Dr. Gillings to draw the world’s attention to these critical issues.”

Jeremy Hunt, the British Health Secretary, announced this month that the National Health Service of England will invest £90 million in the coming year in an effort to diagnose two-thirds of the people who have dementia by March 2015.

Following agreements made between the G8 countries at a dementia summit in London in December 2013, U.K. leaders have announced a number of goals, including faster diagnosis, more research funding and greater help from businesses to support sufferers. A number of British businesses, whose staff members total around 190,000, have committed to become “dementia friends,” trained to spot the signs of dementia and offer support for those affected by it.

The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are about 800,000 people in the U.K. who have dementia. One in three people age 65 and above will develop the condition. Two-thirds are women.

The Gillings School of Global Public Health has worked since 2011 with University of Cambridge (U.K.) to pioneer collaborative research in dementia, obesity, tobacco and alcohol, and disease progression and treatment.  The partnership, built on the two universities’ complementary strengths in biostatistics, epidemiology, obesity, noncommunicable diseases, aging, health behavior and global health, includes the UNC Gillings School’s Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, PhD, professor of health policy and management, interim co-director of UNC’s Institute on Aging and former president of the Gerontological Society of America.

“We’re so pleased about Dr. Gillings’ appointment,” said Julie MacMillan, MPH, director of Research and Innovation Solutions and interim director of the Global Gateway office at UNC’s Gillings School. “In the UNC-Cambridge University partnership, we hope to model the kind of research solutions that the G8 endorses.  The personal and societal costs of dementia are crushing.  We salute Dr. Gillings and his council’s efforts to move the needle on a cure.”

In 2004, Dennis Gillings was awarded the lifetime honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), a recognition by the British government for distinguished and innovative contributions and service at the national level.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.