RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Barry Teater, vice president of corporate communications at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, is stepping down.

Teater, a 20-year veteran of the Center that was founded in 1984, is joining The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, as its director of communications. The laboratory is focused on genetics research. A non-profit operation, it has a staff of more than 1,200 and in fiscal year 2005 generated more than $137 million in revenues.

Teater’s resignation is effective December 14.

“I’ve been very happy at the Biotechnology Center during my 20 years here, and I assumed I would retire from here one day,” Teater said in an e-mail. He was contacted by a search firm executive about the new position.

“I initially declined, but called him back a day later and put my name in contention for the job,” Teater added. “Two months and several interviews later, I was offered the job and accepted it. I start work there on December 31.”

The departure of Teater leaves a public relations gap in the staff at the Biotech Center just as it enters a new phase of growth under its latest director, Norris Tolson. Tolson, a former legislator, Department of Commerce and Secretary of Revenue for North Carolina, has taken the Biotech Center job firmly in both hands since taking it earlier this year. He is driving the biotech industry forward in the state with initiatives such as a biofuels program and outspoken support for the proposed national bioterror lab in Butner.

Teater, who earned a Masters in journalism at UNC Chapel Hill and at one time worked for The News & Observer, wrote that he is leaving the Center at a good time.

“He has a great entrepreneurial mindset and is moving quickly to innovate,” Teater said of Tolson. “He has already created the Biofuels Center of North Carolina and is implementing several Centers of Innovation for developing and commercializing targeted sectors of biotechnology throughout the state such as nanobiotechnology and marine biotechnology.

“Working for Norris and other mentors including Steven Burke, [retired director] Charles Hamner and Ken Tindall has been a great experience for me and helped prepare me for my new job at The Jackson Laboratory,” he added.

“One of the first things I’ll do when I get to the Lab is put a framed question by my desk – ‘What would Tolson, Burke, Hamner, Tindall, et. al., do?’ – to help me think through difficult problems or seize new opportunities. If I can channel some of these guys’ creativity and leadership, I’ll do A-OK in the new job. The Center has a very capable staff, top to bottom, and I’ll miss all of them after 20 years of working with them.”

Rather than working with biotech, Teater will be tasked with advancing the Jackson Laboratory’s programs in genetics as well as cancer. The lab dates to 1929 and has another office in California. Teater obviously is excited about the job.

“Its research staff of more than 500 investigates the genetic basis of cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, diabetes and many other human diseases and disorders,” he pointed out. “The Laboratory is also the world’s source for more than 3,300 strains of genetically defined mice, home of the Mouse Genome Database and many other publicly available information resources, and an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

“This is a solid organization doing noble work,” Teater added. “The Lab’s new tagline: ‘Leading the Search for Tomorrow’s Cures,’ says it well.

The Biotech Center has a staff of 65 and an annual budget of just over $17 million.

While Teater said he would miss the Center, he made sure to point out: “No more commutes down I-40!”