The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is stepping up its efforts to support new technology development, creating a new executive position to oversee its Centers of Innovation Operations.

Taking the post is Mary Beth Thomas, a veteran with the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC). In her SBTDC role, Thomas was statewide director of technology commercialization.

The Centers of Innovation program, launched last year, is designed to help develop commercial hubs for technology that could lead to more growth for the state’s biotech industry.

Two groups have already been awarded $100,000 grants to plan centers. One in the Triad will focus on nanobiotechnology. The other will be based in the Triangle and seek to develop advanced medical technologies.

Once the groups have submitted business plans, they are eligible for $2.5 million phase two grants that would be spread over four years.

Thomas will work with those groups and others that could receive funding.

“We’re delighted that Mary Beth Thomas has joined the Biotechnology Center to lead the COI program,” said Ken Tindall, senior vice president for Science and Business Development at the Biotechnology Center. “She brings an outstanding combination of scientific and commercial experience to this new challenge.”

Earlier in her career, Thomas worked for both Tranzyme Pharma and Cogent Neuroscience.

“I look forward to serving the people of North Carolina and to working with the highly talented people involved in these Centers of Innovation,” Thomas said in a statement.

Thomas earned a Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of Cincinnati. She received an undergraduate degree in biotechnology at the Rochester Institute of Technology.