Oct. 31, 2022

Biomedical engineer spins his breakthrough research on breast cancer diagnosis into a startup

2022 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Kenneth Fuh, PhD’17; co-founder and director of product development, Syantra Inc.
Kenneth Fuh
Kenneth Fuh Avenue Magazine

It’s a PhD candidate’s dream  — to spin your research into a successful company. This is precisely what Dr. Kenneth Fuh, PhD, did when he created the startup, Syantra Inc., parlaying his work in diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for breast cancer into a company. The company’s breakthrough product, Syantra DX Breast Cancer Test, uses a unique set of biomarkers to detect breast cancer from a blood sample. With global ambitions, the 34-year-old says that Syantra DX is currently available across Canada; his company has a five-year plan of penetrating foreign markets, as well as increasing the capacity to offer similar testing for other cancers. Syantra DX can detect breast cancer at an early stage and is especially helpful for younger women who are not recommended for screening, yet account for 18 per cent of breast cancer diagnoses.

Do you remember any remarkable professors?

Professors Dr. Mike Kallos and Dr. Carrie Shemanko — they were dedicated members of my supervisory committee and stand out as having a great influence on my PhD research. And, I might not be the professional I am today without the mentorship and guidance of my PhD supervisor, Dr. Tina Rinker, and my lab manager (at the time), Bob Shepherd. Bob and Tina’s energy, enthusiasm and dedication to translate key findings from my PhD research to diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for breast cancer is reflected in the progress Syantra has made in the last six years.

Where did you hang out on campus?

It is an understatement if I refer to the CCIT (the Calgary Centre for Innovative Technology, an interdisciplinary lab) as my second home for the best part of seven years (2012 – 2019), and I still chuckle every time I drive past that building. Upon completion of studies in 2016, I joined Syantra and we leased space at CCIT, so I got to stick around the building for few more years.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

Successfully leading the Syantra DX Breast Cancer Test through the product-development lifecycle and having it implemented clinically in the Syantra facility located in northwest Calgary. Working with the team to get the test available and accessible to Canadian patients has been an enormously rewarding experience.

What do you wish you knew more about?

The ever-changing regulatory landscape required for medical devices.

Who are your biggest heroes?

My parents, from whom I learned the invaluable lesson of always staying grounded and humble when things go right and using the good moments as inspiration to overcome challenges when they inevitably do come around.

Any advice for students or new grads? 

Network effectively and don’t be shy to tell your story. Embrace every moment with determination, sincerity and a willingness to make a difference. Enjoy the ride and follow your dreams!

When you are not working, what do you do? 

Getting run around by our kids. When I run out of tricks or get them super-tired, I catch up with sports, especially Arsenal FC (soccer team) and the Golden State Warriors (NBA).  

What are you reading these days?

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, The Future is Faster Thank You Think by Peter Diamandis, and Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Can you take me through one of your proudest aha! moments?

Being a dad to two fantastic kids, from whom I derive great motivation and a sense of fulfilment.

With files from Avenue Magazine.

Meet the entire 2022 cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honourees at Avenue Magazine.