All employees at the are being asked to take unpaid leave as part of cost-cutting measures.

The center is funded by the state. Its mission is to grow North Carolina’s biotechnology industry, which employs more than 50,000 people statewide and is the third-largest cluster of biotech companies in the U.S.

The unpaid leave would be one day a month for an unspecified period of time.

“Without eliminating a single job, we can conserve state resources and continue to conduct our programs that promote economic development during a time of shrinking budgets,” said Biotech Center President Norris Tolson.

Gov. Bev Perdue has told state-funded agencies to cut current budgets by 9 percent due to the recession that’s gripping the country and reducing state revenues.

According to the Biotech Center, the unpaid leave will save $250,000 a year.

The General Assembly created the Biotech Center in 1984, the first such state-funded venture.

State funding for the Biotech Center was set at $19,427,561 for 2008. That’s the highest total since $17,884,403 in 1999 and includes non-recurring funds of $4 million.

In 2007, the Biotech Center received $15,583,395, none of which was non-recurring.

State support fell to $5,270,468 in 2001, but has increased each succeeding year.

On Wednesday, the Biotech Center lost one of its top managers. Steven Burke is taking over full time as president of the fledgling Biofuels Center of North Carolina.

Burke, who has worked at the Center since 1985, is the founding chairman of the Biofuels Center in Oxford. He also has been its acting president since August.

“North Carolina in previous crises has demonstrated the ability to make the hard decisions,” Tolson said. When the economy turns up again, we’ll be ready to grow.”

The Biotech Center budget has been cut in the past during other financial challenges and needed several years in order to get back to lost levels.