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Kenny To

Neuroscience PhD Kenny To is building his career with the addition of a Management of Technology MBA.

MBA grad at ease in suits or lab coats

October 8, 2009

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By Helena Bryan

Science or business and ne’er the two shall meet? Not in 30-year-old Kenny To’s world. The PhD graduate in neuroscience and recent SFU MBA grad is comfortable in boardrooms and labs alike.

And he’s nothing like the bumbling egghead stereotype featured in popular culture. You know, the one in the white lab coat too distracted by his latest experiment to comb his hair or find socks that match, let alone run a company.

In fact, while To was earning a PhD at UBC, he and two partners were building a successful contract research organization. Called Wax-it Histology Services, the company helps pharmaceutical clients assess the toxicology of drugs prior to clinical trials.

The Surrey native co-founded Wax-it with no formal business experience or training. "Learning the ropes—writing a business plan, securing seed financing—all that was pretty challenging on top of my doctoral studies," To recalls. "It was really like having two full-time jobs."

In 2007, when To completed his PhD, he decided to take a more active role in the company. At the same time, he wanted more business training and headed to SFU to pursue a part-time Management of Technology MBA—a degree for toward the biotechnology sector—on a full scholarship.

To’s final applied MBA project was to write a business plan for the inventor of an emerging neuroscience technology at UBC, for which he received a scholarship from the BC Innovation Council. The council encourages MBAs to apply science to business—something at which To already had plenty of practice.

"The cool thing about this MBA was that I could directly apply in real time to my company what I was learning in school and vice versa."

To finished his MOT MBA in August 2009 while still a director with Wax-it.

Since July, he has been applying his book smarts and business savvy to managing and marketing product lines with Vancouver-based STEMCELL Technologies, the largest biotech company in the province.

Appealing to both the scientist and entrepreneur in him, STEMCELL is where he’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

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