When Ken Lee decided last year to retire after almost 30 years at Ernst & Young, where he finished up by heading the accounting firm’s Health Sciences Corporate Finance Group, he was looking forward to doing a bit of consulting and spending more time with his family.

Then long-time friend Art Pappas convinced Lee to sign on as president of A.M. Pappas & Associates, a venture capital and consulting firm in Research Triangle Park, N.C., that focuses on the life sciences sector.

Now, after less than eight months on the job, Lee has stepped down from A.M. Pappas, figuring retirement is, indeed, the best option for him.

“It was a really friendly separation,” Lee says. “I just looked at the business landscape and what I wanted to do and what the firm wanted to do and went out on my own, where I can work a lot less and do projects for different people.”

One of those projects is the BioVista fund being formed by Catalysta Partners, Durham-based consulting and investment firm. The fund has garnered $30 million from Golden LEAF, the foundation that directs a portion of North Carolina’s tobacco litigation settlement money into economic development activities, and hopes to build a $120 million war chest to do late-stage biotechnology and biomanufacturing deals.

Lee says he worked with BioVista Managing Partner Clay Thorp a few years ago when Thorp was at Novalon Pharmaceuticals, and that Thorp and Catalysta partner John Crumpler asked him a few months ago to lend his expertise to the effort. Lee signed on as a venture partner for BioVista, meaning he will put his network of contacts to work to find potential investments for the fund.

But first, he says, the fund must build a team with enough experience in the life sciences sector to attract other investors, noting that the Catalysta principals don’t have the requisite resumes.

“They’re young tigers who are going to do a lot of good over time, and I hope I can help them,” he says. “I think the state is really on the right track in making an investment pool out of the (tobacco settlement) money.”

In addition to BioVista, Lee says he wants to do some part-time consulting – he still does some work for A.M. Pappas and is listed as “special advisor” on the firm’s website – and sit on various corporate boards.

“I’ve spent a lot of my life working with audit statements and disclosures, so I feel comfortable being on audit committees,” he says, noting the increased demands now being placed on corporate directors.

Pappas referred questions about Lee’s departure to A.M. Pappas Senior Vice President Ford Worthy, who said the firm is looking forward to working with Lee on specific deals, including the BioVista fund.

A.M. Pappas has put Rosina Maar, executive vice president and medical director, in charge of the firm’s strategic advisory business, but there are no plans to name another president, Worthy says.

Lee and Worthy call his brief tenure at the firm a success, saying he helped refine its approach to corporate advisory work by shifting the products offered and how they are marketed.

“The change of direction came a little faster than I thought, but at my age, you don’t delay making decisions,” the 54-year-old Lee says. “I spent a few months working on things there, and now I’ve moved on to Chapter 2.”