In a year that has seen a rebound in the number of technology and life science firms able to successfully execute initial public stock offerings, the Research Triangle now welcomes TransEnterix as the region’s latest public company.

TransEnterix, based in Research Triangle Park, on Wednesday completed its merger with Miami-based SafeStitch Medical (OTC:SFES). TransEnterix gets SafeStitch’s public listing; the combined company now carries the TransEnterix name and is led by TransEnterix CEO Todd Pope.

In addition to closing the mostly stock deal, TransEnterix raised $30.2 million in a private placement from investors in both companies that TransEnterix will apply to SurgiBot, a surgical robot that builds on the manual non-invasive laparascopic surgical technology of the company’s first product, the SPIDER surgical system. SPIDER allows surgeons to perform procedures in the abdomen through a small incision in the belly button. SurgiBot adds robotic capabilities to that TransEnterix surgical platform.

The $30.2 million will be applied to final development and testing of SurgiBot, along with preparation for an expected 2014 filing for regulatory clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. TransEnterix needed to raise money to do that and Pope said the venture capital-backed company considered raising more money privately. The company also weighed a conventional IPO. Pope said said the merger with SafeStitch was the best option because it gave the company the opportunity to go public while also adding a pipeline of product candidates, particularly flexible, non-invasive surgical products – similar to the focus of TransEnterix.

“Our primary focus is on SurgiBot for sure, but SafeStitch does have some innovative products that are of interest to us and we want,” Pope said.

Going public by acquiring SafeStitch allows TransEnterix to sidestep the formal process of filing a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and having regulators and the investment community do their due diligence evaluating all aspects of an IPO candidate’s financials. Some in the investment community look down on these “reverse mergers” because they allow companies to go public without thorough scrutiny.

But with the SafeStitch merger, TransEnterix can immediately add to its own pipeline of surgical product candidates in a way that complements rather than competes with TransEnterix’s own work. SafeStitch has been conducting research and development on medical devices for treating obesity; gastroeophageal reflux disease (GERD); and Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition caused by GERD in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid and changes to become like the lining of the stomach, among other conditions that are addressed through endoscopic and minimally invasive surgery.

The merger also brings TransEnterix two FDA-cleared SafeStitch devices: the AMD HFD stapler used in hernia surgery and the SMART Dilator used to expand a narrowing esophagus.

While SafeStitch was successful in securing FDA clearance on those products, they have not yet gained traction in the market. In the first half of 2013, SafeStitch reported just $17,000 in revenue, up from $9,000 in the same period in 2012. According Safestitch’s 2012 annual report, the company generated $35,000 in revenue and lost $6.7 million. Since its 2005 inception, the company has lost $29.5 million. The annual report raised questions about SafeStitch’s ability to continue as a going concern.

TransEnterix made a deal because it was looking to raise money and saw an opportunity to go public in a way that also added to its product pipeline. SafeStitch made a deal because it needed to. It was running low on cash and needed a way to survive.

Despite the lack of investment scrutiny of TransEnterix prior to the deal, Pope said the company is ready now for the scrutiny that comes with being public. Pope has held leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific, both publicly-traded companies. Pope added that much of his management team also has experience at publicly-traded companies. The company has also added to its board SafeStitch board members who bring experience contributing to the growth of publicly-traded companies.

“I’m very excited about being a CEO of a publicly traded company,” Pope said. “If you create value for the patients, the surgeons and the hospitals, you have the opportunity to create value for shareholders.”

TransEnterix will continue to base its operations in RTP while maintaining a small presence in Miami. Pope said that the headcount of the combined company now stands at 84; 75 workers are based in The Park. Any new hires or moves will be determined by R&D priorities.