400 biotech reps, investors expected for Doral conference
By Tom Harlan
More than 400 biotech representatives and investors are expected to attend a November conference in Doral that is to showcase the Southeast's commitment to the industry.
The Southeastern Bio Investor Forum will pair the region's biotech companies with venture capitalists Nov. 8-9 at Doral Golf Resort & Spa, 4400 NW 87th Ave., conference organizers said.
The Southeast - led by North Carolina, Georgia and Florida - ranks second behind New England among US regions in its concentration of life-science companies, according to Ernst & Young's annual report on the industry.
The conference, hosted by the Southeastern Life Sciences Association, a regional collaboration of life-science organizations and venture capitalists, rotates through cities such as Birmingham and Atlanta.
"No single state in the Southeast has enough companies to attract a critical mass of venture capitalists," said David L. Day, conference co-chairman and director of the University of Florida's Office of Technology Licensing and Biotechnology Incubator programs.
The conference is designed to help biotech companies find financing, said David Gury, conference co-chairman and president of Gury Consulting in Boca Raton.
Mr. Day said he expects about 150 venture capitalists at the conference. "Virtually every venture capitalist in the Southeast and others around the country interested in biotech will attend this event," he said.
Conference organizers chose the Doral resort because it has amenities to attract venture capitalists, Mr. Gury said. "The Doral has a great recognition in the golf world and is a good attraction for golfers and non-golfers," he said.
At least six of the 33 companies that are to present business plans at the conference are from Florida, Mr. Day said. In addition, several Florida companies are sponsoring events to gain exposure, he said.
The conference is to open with an invitation-only golf tournament and company mentoring sessions that will pair top biotech companies with consultants and venture capitalists.
The second day is to feature presentations from 17 of the region's biotech companies and speakers such as Subhanu Saxena, global head of business development and licensing for Primary Care Novartis International, and Dennis Purcell, senior managing director for Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical Fund.
South Florida's potential as a biotech cluster is not on the agenda as an official conference topic, but it may be a subject of conversation among attendees, conference officials said.
"It will be difficult for a group of people that are committed to some aspect of life-science business to gather in Miami and not discuss what is going on in Florida in the area of biotechnology," he said.
Mr. Day said the attractiveness of South Florida as a biotech cluster will bring venture capitalists from around the country.
In October 2003, Scripps Research Institute, a biotech company based in La Jolla, CA, announced plans to establish a biomedical research park in northern Palm Beach County. "Scripps is very helpful in this regard," Mr. Day said. "It put us over the top buzz-wise."
The institute's decision should benefit other area companies looking for investments, Mr. Day said. "We're looking to showcase what we think will be one of the top five or 10 biotech clusters in the country."