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PhD in pharmacology helps grad thrive in business

Dr. Waylon Hunt took an unusual path to co-founding and leading a lab-based business.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Hunt started working at a bank right out of high school. For seven years, he progressed in his career while taking courses offered by the Institute of Canadian Bankers.

“I always wanted to do big things,” he recalls. “I really started understanding the value of education. I decided I wanted to take it all the way, to where I could get the maximum out of it.”

That led Hunt to leave the workforce and enrol at UM as a mature student. But before starting his bachelor of science, he had to take high school night classes. “I had been out of school for so long, I didn’t remember any of the sciences or math,” he says.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 2004 and continued at UM, earning a PhD in pharmacology and therapeutics at the Max Rady College of Medicine in 2012. After graduation, he and two friends who had also earned doctorates in the health sciences came up with the idea to start a company.

“We all had other options that we could have pursued, but instead we decided to start a business. We met weekly to do research so we could decide, if we go at this business, what’s it going to look like? What do we actually want to do? What’s the competition like?”

Today, Hunt is CEO of Intrinsic Analytics Inc., the company the trio co-founded in 2012. As a bioinformation services provider, the company offers many kinds of occupational health testing, such as drug and alcohol, hearing, vision, respirator fit and lung capacity testing. It also offers personal services such as DNA paternity testing.

Hunt is particularly proud that the lab at Intrinsic Analytics was the first private one in Manitoba to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19.

Looking back, Hunt says he has acquired layers of learning. His banking days gave him knowledge about customer service, corporate organization and business culture. In graduate school at UM, he gained experience in research, communication and giving presentations.

“All of the knowledge and skills I gained in grad school, I ended up having to use when we got into business,” he says. “It was a huge benefit to be able to bring science to business and business to science.”

Hunt’s responsibilities as CEO have evolved over time. At the beginning, “you’re doing a little bit of everything to make your business survive,” he says.  

“Now I help guide the business so that we can evolve and grow into new markets. It’s understanding what the trends are so that we can always meet the needs of our clients.”

What wisdom would Hunt offer to students? “You’re never done learning, and your education does not define what you’re going to do.

“Expose yourself to as many different ways of thinking and as many different experiences as you can. That will form the basis for how you’re going to solve problems and come up with ideas.”

Source: Rady Communications Staff with Camila Chacon and Katrina Armstrong

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