Presenting companies: The fourth-annual Southeastern Biotechnology Investor Forum (SEBIO), sponsored by the Southeastern Life Sciences Association (SELSA), kicks off tomorrow at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead.

SEBIO, which lasts two days, is one of the Southeast’s premier events for the life science community, bringing together regional, national and international life science investors, entrepreneurs and company executives as well as other key players in the life science sector.

The conference has chosen 17 companies from the region to present. An additional 16 companies have been chosen to participate in an early stage event that is being held for the first time.

The companies were chosen by a group of life sciences investors who were asked by SEBIO to participate as members of the selection committee, says Becky Kaufman, conference director. The investors were from regional funds involved in life sciences investing, including the Aurora Funds, Intersouth Partners, Research Triangle Ventures, Advantage Capital Partners, Fuqua Ventures, A.M Pappas and associates and several others.

They met in early October to review the many applications received through the SEBIO website, Kaufman says, adding that the applications received were the result of many efforts at the state level. In each state, she says a committee worked to contact and recruit candidate companies. The state committee’s main role was to make suitable companies in their state aware of the opportunity, and to encourage them to apply.

“We are very pleased to have a record number of applications this year,” Aurora’s Doug Gooding, SEBIO 2002 Selection Committee Chair, said in a statement. “The final group is an excellent representation of the growth of the life sciences industry in the southeast, and come from a wide variety of industry segments, including drug discovery, agricultural biotechnology, vaccines, medical devices and gene therapy. While all of the companies selected to present have received some institutional funding, they represent a variety of points in the funding life cycle.”

Since the forum’s inception in 1999, more than 50 companies have presented their stories to the investment community, and more than $325 million in private equity has been raised. Representatives of more than 100 private equity groups from around the country have attended SEBIO.

This past year, some of the largest rounds of financing raised by biotech and life science companies (with amount) include Atlanta-based Inhibitex ($45.4 million), Durham-based Scynexis ($29 million), Nobex ($22.5 million) and BioStratum ($20 million) also both of Durham, Altea Therapeutics in Atlanta ($17 million), Durham-based Serenex ($15 million), Atlanta-based Proxima Therapeutics ($14 million), Dynogen Pharmaceuticals of Durham ($13.25 million) and RTP-based Norak Biosciences ($13 million).

Biotech executives to speak

SELSA also has lined up two top speakers for the SEBIO conference.Tony White, chief executive officer of Applera Corporation of Norwalk, CT, and Jan Leschly, former CEO of SmithKline Beecham and chairman of Care Capital in Princeton, NJ, headline the event.

As chairman and CEO of Applera, parent company of Applied Biosystems and Celera Corporation, White has directed the activities of two of the most visible participants in the genomics revolution. He was among the leaders in the race to sequence the human genome and now leads the company’s high-profile efforts to leverage genomic capabilities in the development of therapeutics and diagnostics.

Leschly, a pharmaceutical industry veteran, served as CEO of SmithKline Beecham for six years before it merged into GlaxoSmithKline, and chief operating officer of Squibb, now part of Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Now chairman of Care Capital, a life sciences venture fund, Leschly invests in many of the companies and technologies that feed the industry’s hunger for innovation.

The SEBIO conference will feature a number of other leading industry experts, as well. The CEO Breakfast, an invitation only event for CEOs of regional life sciences companies, will feature John Holladay, CEO of EntreMed. A venture capital panel will conclude the conference, and will feature Camille Samuels-Pierson, of Versant Ventures, as well as Stewart Hen of Warburg and Hubert Berner of Techno Venture Management.