Rick Williams, a veteran life science executive, is joining the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to run its new technology transfer efforts.

Earlier this year the Center launched the Business Acceleration and Technology Out-Licensing Network, or BATON, through which it makes loans and services available to life science startups. BATON hopes to step up the pace of launching companies and products based on research done at North Carolina universities and research institutions.

“I am very excited to help build more companies in North Carolina,” said Williams, who has been working with the Biotech Center as a volunteer for the past six months. “I just believe this is a great environment to be in.”

The BATON program helped in the launch of two companies, Provagen from North Carolina A&T and Sirga AB from North Carolina State.

"Rick brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in starting and running biotechnology companies and greatly understands the issues faced by start-ups," said John Richert, vice president of business and technology development at the Biotech Center. "Above all, he is passionate about giving back to our biotechnology community."

Williams has worked at Merck, Genentech and Amerisource Bergen. His most recent position was chief business officer at CellzDirect, a biopharmaceutical firm in Pittsboro.

Noting that he has been involved in biotech since 1986, Williams said he wants to be “part of the next generation” of biotech. Based on the universities, the scientists, the entrepreneurial environment and related services that are available across the state, Williams said he sees many opportunities to launch new companies.

“We hope to launch as many as 10 companies a year,” he explained.

In his new role, Williams will be tasked to work at the technology transfer offices at universities and research institutions across the state to identify and screen potential candidates for the BATON program.

Jim Shamp, a spokesperson for the Biotech Center, noted that university tech transfer offices have “a huge amount on their platters” with “all kinds of tech transfer opportunities, not just in life science.” BATON, he said, will help the Biotech Center “take some of that load.”

Williams will also help find chief executive officers to run the startups.

Williams, 55, received a degree in speech and hearing science at the University of Pittsburgh.

The BATON program offers $50,000 in loans through its Technology Enhancement and Acceleration Model, or TEAM, program. BATON also will seek in-kind or contributed services from law firms, banks and accounting firms to help the tech transfer, company formation and commercialization efforts.