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Food Safety Test Systems Company Raises $60 Million in IPO

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(A. Kotok)

17 July 2014. Roka Bioscience Inc., a developer of molecular-level food safety tests in Warren, New Jersey, issued 5 million shares in its initial public offering (IPO) yesterday. The company priced the shares at $12.00, raising $60 million. Roka Bioscience will trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol ROKA.

The company develops tests for foodborne pathogens, such as salmonella and E. coli, by testing samples for suspect RNA, the nucleic acids produced by genes with instructions governing the functions of living cells. Roka’s systems analyze ribosomal RNA that regulates production of proteins. The company says organisms produce many more copies of ribosomal RNA than DNA, providing an easier target and higher test sensitivity.

Roka’s says its technology automates the testing process, making it possible to test samples with little or no further preparation. Its tests capture genetic material that bind to magnetic particles and separated in purified form. RNA molecules in the samples are then amplified and combined with a luminescent agent that responds to detectors for specific pathogens.

The company offers testing equipment under its Atlas brand, covering tests for two types of E. coli and listeria, as well as salmonella. The company says the Atlas equipment fully automates the testing process, even producing bar codes for samples.

Roka Biosciences was formed in 2009 as a spin-off from the medical diagnostics company Gen-Probe, now called Hologic. The company says it raised some $105 million in four funding rounds since 2009, from venture investors OrbiMed Advisors, New Enterprise Associates, TPG Biotech, and Aisling Capital. At 12:30 pm today Roka’s stock was trading at $11.90 a share.

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Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet

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