The head of a Princeton payroll and credit-card-payments firm and the chief executive officer of a Wayne specialty-pharmaceutical company were each named "CEO of the Year" last night at the annual Eastern Technology Council's Enterprise Awards event.

More than 1,200 people gathered at the Kimmel Center for the 15th awards show, a celebration of local technology and life-sciences companies and the people who run them.

Robert Carr, chairman and chief executive of Heartland Payment Systems Inc., a 10-year-old company providing payroll, credit and debit-card processing to 150,000 small and mid-size businesses nationwide, was chosen Technology CEO of the Year by the council, a Wayne group that assists member companies with business development.

Matthew Emmens, chief executive of Shire P.L.C., a British company that has U.S. headquarters in Wayne, was selected Life Sciences CEO of the Year. Shire, the No. 1 maker of attention-deficit medicines, announced plans in July to expand in Chester County.

Twenty-seven companies competed for all the awards.

"This year was much more competitive, and we had more companies nominated," said James Datin, Safeguard Scientifics Inc.'s executive vice president of life sciences, who helped judge the life-sciences companies. "In the past, usually you had one company that stood out. This year, you felt like giving a tie to a bunch of companies. There were so many good ones that have achieved a lot of successes."

The winners were characterized by spectacular growth, commercial success, a promising product, or entrepreneurial leadership, said Darren Wallis, managing partner at Osage Ventures, of Bala Cynwyd, who helped judge the technology companies.

"The common theme was strong management and huge market potential," Wallis said. "They are executing on their respective business plans in very innovative ways that are attractive to both investors and customers."

Honored as Technology Company of the Year was AppLabs Inc., a Center City high-tech service company that tests software for bugs, vulnerability to hackers, and ease of use. AppLabs has operations in London and Hyderabad, India.

Life Sciences Company of the Year was Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Malvern, a specialty-pharmaceutical company focusing on urology products, with one marketed product, a topical testosterone gel.

"They are all exciting," said Brenda Gavin, managing partner of Quaker BioVentures Inc., of Philadelphia, who helped judge the life-sciences companies.

"The public companies are on a tremendous growth curve. The private ones are similarly on growth curves, but it's more technological growth and value-added growth," Gavin said. "The private companies are going to provide really good returns to their investors, and that's what I judge a company on, as well as providing good product."

Additional Winners

Technology Start-Up Company: Verilogue, of Fort Washington, a medical marketing-research company with technology that captures, tracks and analyzes physician-patient interactions, tying real conversations with electronic patient charts.

Emerging Technology Company: LiquidHub Inc., a King of Prussia systems-integration and technology-consulting firm.

Life Sciences Start-Up Company: Avid Radiopharmaceuticals Inc., of University City, which is working on radioactive compounds that can be scanned to identify plaque in the brain believed to be related to Alzheimer's and other neurogenerative diseases - before symptoms occur.

Emerging Life Sciences Company: Protez Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Malvern, which is developing new antibacterial drugs to combat bacteria resistance in people with chronic or recurrent infections.

The Chief Information Officer of the Year Award went to John A. Bielec of Drexel University, who led the effort to make Drexel the first major university to operate a fully wireless campus and launched the first wireless Web portal service for students.

Recipient of the Legend Award for lifetime achievement was Warren V. "Pete" Musser, founder and CEO of Musser Group, a strategy-consulting and private-equity firm in Wayne.

The Enterpriser Award went to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, founded in 1821 as Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and the first college of pharmacy in North America.

Named "companies to watch" were Topaz Pharmaceuticals, of Jenkintown; Maxwell Systems Inc., of King of Prussia; Onconova Therapeutics Inc., of Princeton; PChem Associates Inc., of Bensalem; and Portico Systems Inc., of Conshohocken.

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.