Emerging Company in the Spotlight sponsored by JFK Communications.
Congratulations to Roka Bioscience, BioNJ’s first Emerging Company in the Spotlight. Each month we will feature a BioNJ Member who is progressively growing and evolving within the New Jersey biotechnology industry. So many of our Members are making a dramatic impact on our State’s innovative ecosystem. And, for that we say thank you.
Roka Bioscience is a molecular diagnostics company focused on developing and commercializing advanced testing solutions for the food safety testing market. The company provides food producers/processors and third-party testing labs with fully automated molecular pathogen detection solutions that deliver rapid, accurate results and improved laboratory efficiencies.
Foodborne illness is a substantial and a growing public health concern. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness affects 1 in 6 Americans, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 deaths every year. A significant percentage of food borne illness is caused by three pathogens: Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli, which have been associated with a wide array of foods such as raw cookie dough, bagged spinach, ground poultry, hamburgers, cantaloupes, spices, ice cream and even peanut butter. In the event of illness outbreak, the cost of product recalls, plant closings, clean-up, litigation and regulatory compliance can be potentially ruinous to a food producer.
Spurred by several high profile food recalls, President Obama passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011 marking the most significant set of changes to food regulation since 1938. It is designed to better protect public health and strengthen the food safety system by giving the FDA the authority to prevent outbreaks rather than simply react after an outbreak has already occurred. FSMA mandates comprehensive prevention-based controls by food processors to protect the U.S. food supply and provides the FDA with enforcement authority.
With the FSMA, increased consumer awareness and concerns over food pathogens at an all-time high, the need for advanced, cost-effective and efficient pathogen detection systems has never been more acute.
Roka Bioscience was established against the backdrop of this need. Formed in 2009 through a spin-off of Gen-Probe’s (now Hologic, Inc.) industrial testing assets and technology, Roka is a public company at the forefront of food pathogen detection. The company recently completed an IPO in the summer of 2014. Roka’s molecular assays are based on proven technologies and instrument platforms exclusively licensed from Hologic, a global leader in nucleic acid tests used primarily to diagnose human diseases and to screen human blood.
Headquartered in Warren, NJ, and with an office in San Diego, CA, Roka produces advanced molecular solutions for the detection of food pathogens in a variety of food segments that includes poultry, beef, produce, processed foods and environmental monitoring. The company’s lead technology platform, the Atlas System, is a fully automated instrument that enhances the accuracy, speed and efficiency of food pathogen testing through detection of molecular pathogens including Listeria, Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli. The Atlas Detection Assays incorporate advanced molecular technologies and are performed with an easy and convenient “sample-in, result-out” workflow on the integrated Atlas System.
Roka is led by managers experienced in both the science and business of biological testing, as well as by a six-member board of directors. The company’s CEO and founder, Paul G. Thomas, received BioNJ’s fifth annual Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership in 2011. “BioNJ has been instrumental in supporting Roka Bioscience since we founded the business in 2009,” Mr. Thomas commented. “We greatly appreciate BioNJ’s recognition of the importance of pathogen detection in maintaining food safety, and are proud to be leaders in this industry category.”
“Paul Thomas, a successful entrepreneur, has established himself within the BioNJ community as a long-time friend, member and supporter. His efforts continue to cultivate and diversify the life sciences community in New Jersey, and we are excited by the many advances in food safety and technology that Roka is bringing to the marketplace,” said BioNJ’s President and CEO, Debbie Hart.
“Roka’s pipeline and innovative product offerings are attracting increasing interest from the industry leaders, who recognize the market potential for growth amid mounting concerns about food safety,” said Steven T. Sobieski, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Roka Bioscience. “As we commercialize our technologies further, we look forward to expanding our business.”