Gen-Probe Spins Off New Company, Roka Bioscience, For Industrial Testing

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Updated 9/15/09 8:15 am. See below.]San Diego-based Gen-Probe (NASDAQ: [[ticker: GPRO]]) says it is spinning off its industrial testing business into an independent company, called Roka Bioscience, that is developing real-time molecular tests for biopharmaceutical, food, and water safety testing.

Gen-Probe plans to initially own 19.9 percent of the new company. Affiliates of three private equity firms, OrbiMed Advisors, TPG (TPG Biotechnology), and New Enterprise Associates have agreed to provide $37.2 million to complete development of several industrial-scale molecular assays. Gen-Probe says 18 of its employees with expertise in industrial testing have joined Roka, which begins operating immediately as an independent company.

A Gen-Probe spokesman says the new company initially will operate out of Gen-Probe’s headquarters, and will be based in San Diego. [Updated to include information that was not immediately available from the company.]

Gen-Probe says it also is contributing industrial assets that include its Closed Unit Dose Assay (CUDA) system, a portable testing instrument that can deliver highly accurate molecular results in roughly an hour. Roka also will have rights to develop tests for new markets, including veterinary, environmental, and bioterrorism testing. Gen-Probe says it also is transferring its partnership agreements with Millipore Corp. of Billerica, MA, and GE Water (a business unit of CT-based General Electric).

Roka’s CEO is Paul G. Thomas, who was most recently chairman and CEO of LifeCell, a regenerative medicine company sold last year to Kinetic Concepts for $1.8 billion. In a statement, Gen-Probe CEO Carl Hull says, “We believe establishing a highly focused, standalone company is the best way to maximize the considerable long-term potential of our molecular technologies in industrial markets.”