Last month in Redwood Shores, Calif., participants in the National Conference of Biotechnology Ventures decided to have some fun. Venture capitalists and biotech CEOs lined up to play a corporate version of "Family Feud," an old television game show in which competing families guessed at trivia.

Karl Thiel
HIGH HOPES: Venture capitalists want functional genomics firms to partner with drug companies, says Karl Thiel.
One game question: What's going to be the next hot biotech area for investment? Feud players at the conference, sponsored by Ernst & Young International of New York, began brainstorming. Immediately, the venture capitalists had a response: "Functional genomics," or unraveling how genes work.

Their answer doesn't surprise investment analysts. "Every company having anything to do with genomics is now renaming itself a 'functional genomics' company," declares Stelios Papadopoulos, head of the health care investment banking group at PaineWebber Group Inc. in New York. He notes that...

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