"The average VC these days is seeing two to three business plans a day come across his desk without leaving the office," Enany said. "They aren't in a hurry to come to a conference to see more new companies.

What attendees will see is a wide array of investing opportunities. Selected presenters include companies working on everything from optical prostheses to the developer of a heart disease therapy that uses a patient's own heart stem cells. While most of the companies hail from Los Angeles and Orange counties, conference organizers also selected start-ups from as far away as Santa Barbara and San Diego.

Some presenting companies, such as Organovo Inc., which is developing a way to build arteries and eventually entire human organs for transplant, are so young they don't even yet have professional management or a permanent office. Others, like Torrance-based digital medical imaging equipment developer Radlink Inc., are small but established public companies looking for potential investors in a private placement.

Capricor Preps for Human Trials

Capricor Inc. falls somewhere in the middle. The company recently announced that it will be ready to launch human clinical trials by the end of this year. It hopes to show that stem cells harvested from biopsies of recent heart attack patients can be re-engineered to help heal the same patient's heart.

The company relocated to Los Angeles from Baltimore last year after noted cardiac surgeon Dr. Eduardo Marban was lured to become director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Capricor still has enough money from a $3 million Series A funding in late 2006 to launch its trials, but Chief Executive Oliver Foellmer is hoping investors at the SoCalBio Conference will participate in a $4 million second round. If all runs smoothly, the company could be ready to submit an application to the Food and Drug Administration in no later than four years.

"We think if we can show our therapy can stop or slow the degeneration that usually takes place after a heart attack, the FDA may be interested in putting our application on a fast track," Foellmer said. "So for investors, it's a risky but potentially multi-billion dollar opportunity."

Staff reporter Deborah Crowe can be reached dcrowe@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.