ZymoGenetics CEO Bruce Carter will step down in January, and will be replaced by Douglas Williams.

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ZymoGenetics Chief Executive Bruce Carter will step down Jan. 2, to be succeeded by current President Douglas Williams.

Carter, 65, a prominent figure in local biotech circles, became president and chief executive of ZymoGenetics in 1998, when the Seattle company was a subsidiary of Novo Nordisk.

He led the spinoff that turned the Seattle-based biotech into an independent company in 2000. Eight years later, he presided over the launch of the company’s first commercial product, Recothrom, a genetically engineered form of a blood protein used to control surgical bleeding.

He leaves as ZymoGenetics, which once ranked highest in market capitalization among Seattle-area biotech firms, has seen its shares plummet 77 percent in the past year because investors are disappointed at sluggish Recothrom sales.

“It has been an honor to lead ZymoGenetics and a privilege to work with so many bright and talented people. It is also satisfying to think that discoveries at ZymoGenetics have led to lives saved,” said Carter in a statement.

“In many ways it is sad to leave, but all organizations are invigorated by new blood, and I am confident that in Doug we have the right person to drive this company forward and capitalize on the opportunities we have created for patients and shareholders.”

Carter will continue as board chairman.

Williams was a top executive at Immunex, the Seattle biotech company that developed the blockbuster rheumatoid-arthritis drug Enbrel and was acquired by Amgen in 2002.

Williams joined ZymoGenetics in 2004 and became the company’s president in July 2007.

His accession to the top job is “in accordance with the company’s succession plan,” ZymoGenetics said in a statement.

Carter is not the only local longtime biotech executive to leave the reins of a company recently.

Last week Targeted Genetics Chief Executive H. Stewart Parker stepped down from the head role at the company she helped found in 1989. At the time, the embattled Seattle biotech said she would remain on the board.

But she resigned from the board Thursday, according to a Targeted Genetics filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com