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Biotech Conference: Hoping For A Repeat Year

Blogging from the 14th NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry conference put on by BioCentury and Thomson Financial in Manhattan. It's a rare opportunity to spend a day getting possible story ideas and networking with sources.

More than 800 analysts and investors are here to listen to three dozen biotech company presentations. They've been handpicked by the organizers using a number of criteria including upcoming milestones (potentially stock-moving, company-changing events). You can check out the so-called Class of 2007 here.

This conference is a little different from the rest because it is not put on by a bank or brokerage. BioCentury boasts that it's an "independent" selection of featured firms.

Right now I'm sitting in a standing room only session by Arena Pharmaceuticals . About a hundred people are in the room. There's high interest because the company has a promising obesity drug in late-stage development and could have updated safety data on it in the next month or so. And the Arena breakout session--a more free-wheeling, unscripted, q and a period--is even more crowded (albeit in a smaller room). Investors sometimes use anecdotal things like turnout at an event like this as a measure of Wall Street interest.

Everyone's looking for the next breakout story and stock. Biotech hasn't done so well lately. BioCentury and Thomson pointed out in their welcoming remarks this morning that between September and November last year the AmEx Biotech Index went up 17%. Investors here are hoping for a repeat performance this year.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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