Dennis Gillings, the founder of Quintiles, is stepping down as the chief executive officer of the company that grew under his direction to be the world’s largest life science services firm.

Gillings, 67,will be replaced as CEO by Tom Pike, 52, a veteran executive who spent much of his career at Accenture, as of April 30.

Gillings will remain executive chairman of the board. He launched the company 30 years ago while working as a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The change was announced early Monday as part of its succession planning at the privately held company.

“Tom Pike’s appointment is part of Quintiles’ ongoing succession planning,” Phil Bridges, director of corporate communications at Quintiles, told WRAL Tech Wire and in an interview.

“As part of this process, Dr. Gillings indicated his intent some time ago to change his personal focus in the future and he believes in this year of Quintiles’ 30th anniversary, coupled with our strong growth and sound future strategy, it is the right time to make the change,” Bridges added

“Because of the planning process, this appointment was made after a robust search process, enabling us to make the transition of responsibilities in a timely manner,” he explained.

Quintiles, which is based in RTP, employs more than 25,000 people wordwlide with operations in 60 countries. The firm offers clinical trial and drug development services, commercialization, consulting and investment capital.

“Tom has an impressive track record of helping customers navigate fast-changing environments and solving complex business issues,” Gillings said in a statement. “He has experience with organizations our size and much larger that will be extremely valuable to us. Tom has a disciplined and forthright approach that will enable him to earn the trust of customers and employees alike. I’m confident he will soon make his mark on our company and the industry at large, continuing the Quintiles tradition of entrepreneurial leadership and pioneering growth.”

Over a 30-year business career, Pike worked 22 of those at Accenture, an international consulting and services firm.

Among his Accenture duties was head of the North America Health and products business. He also served at one time as global chief operating officer for the Accenture Resources operating group.

Pike left Accenture in 2010 and has spent the past two years working with start-ups in technology as well as healthcare.

“Healthcare is the most important industry of the next quarter century, and I’m excited because Quintiles is right at the center of improving the health of millions of people around the world,” Pike said in a statement.

“It’s extremely motivating to join the company at this point in time. I understand the magnitude and complexity of its customers’ challenges,” he added. “I’m looking forward to bringing my skills and experience to help this talented team build on its successes as it continues its journey as one of the world’s great companies.”

[QUINTILES ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of Quintiles stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire by clicking here.]