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Roka Bioscience Joins Growing List of MDx Firms Seeking an IPO

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Foodborne pathogen molecular diagnostics firm Roka Bioscience has filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to go public.

In a preliminary prospectus filed on Wednesday, the firm said it plans to offer up to $75 million worth of shares in an initial public offering. It has not yet priced the offering or said how many shares it plans to sell. It expects to list on the Nasdaq Global Market under ticker symbol "ROKA."

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith; Leerink Partners; Cowen and Co.; and Wedbush Securities are listed in Roka's SEC document as the offering's underwriters.

Spun out of Gen-Probe (now part of Hologic) in 2009, Roka has offices in Warren, NJ, and San Diego and develops PCR-based molecular diagnostics for detecting foodborne pathogens, which it said is the fastest growing segment of the $2 billion food safety testing market. Its flagship platform is the Atlas instrument, an automated sample-in, result-out platform, and the company offers assays for detecting E. coli 0157:H7; Shiga toxin E. coli; Listeria; Listeria monocytogenes; and Salmonella, according to Roka's website.

"Although we are in the early stages of commercialization and rely on a limited number of customers, our initial customers include key opinion leaders in food safety testing, such as leading contract testing labs, well-known food processors, and government agencies," Roka said in its Form S-1.

It said that its market comprises three testing segments for foodborne contaminants — pathogen testing, which Roka estimated at $730 million; chemical contaminants testing, an estimated $570 million space; and indicator organism testing, estimated at $700 million.

Through March 31, the firm had installed 32 Atlas instruments, pursuant to commercial agreements. Instrument placements are achieved primarily through reagent rental agreements, it said, and through March 31, it had sold two instruments.

Roka purchases the Atlas platforms from Gen-Probe, and it also has exclusively licensed the rights to various Gen-Probe nucleic acid-based tests and instrumentation for use in industrial applications. According to its SEC document, it has rights to the Gen-Probe IP for applications in markets including pharmaceutical processing, personal care products, water and environmental, veterinary, biothreat, and infection control in healthcare facilities, including hospital-acquired infections.

In 2013, the company recorded $2.2 million in revenues, up from $105,000 in 2012. Its net loss last year rose to $29.6 million from $23.2 million in 2012.

In the first three months of 2014, Roka posted $828,000 in revenues, compared to $266,000 a year ago. Its net loss in Q1 2014 was $8.4 million, up from $7.7 million a year ago. The company had $32.7 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter, it said.

In 2012, Roka raised $47.5 million in a Series D financing round, as PCR Insider reported at the time. Prior to that, the firm raised $20 million in a Series C round.

Paul Thomas is Roka's president and CEO. Steven Sobieski is its CFO and treasurer, and AmyJo McCardell is its Senior VP of commercial operations. Roka's Chairman is James Barrett.

The company joins a growing list of firms in the MDx space that have recently filed for an initial public offering. They include DermTech, Ariosa Diagnostics, and Signal Genetics, which last week drastically lowered the expected proceeds amount from its planned IPO.