Kestas Bendinskas, a Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, recently opened a startup to meet demand for a distinctive type of testing and to provide students with outstanding paid internship opportunities.

The biotech startup laboratory, Stress Bionalytics LLC, is now open in the Oswego County Business Expansion Center on Seneca Street in Oswego. 

“The business will provide research and development services to private and academic clients predominantly in the sphere of measuring stress biomolecules in ‘difficult’ matrices, such as hair or nails,” Bendinskas explained. 

“It entered my mind as an entrepreneurship project when I unexpectedly got a nationwide interest in my lab that my expertise allows me to fulfill,” Bendinskas recalled. “I used to have one or two grants per year and I was happy with it, but when it skyrocketed … that became an idea to pursue.”

Bendinskas’ methods primarily measure cortisol, a molecule the body releases in response to stress. The least invasive and practical sampling methods involve hair and nails, because they can provide a steady reading for a longer period of time, and samples are reasonably easy to collect.

“The reason that we measure cortisol is because if physicians and scientists want to assess stress, they can do it two ways,” Bendinskas explained. “They can ask a person directly and they receive a personal opinion. However, the best measurements in this field are controlled and longitudinal, and available through physiological cortisol sampling.”

This sampling can measure how intervention methods decrease the stress within a subject population. “You can measure it before intervention and after intervention,” Bendinskas said. “You can also measure in a control population and see if there is any difference.”

Partnerships emerge

The chair of chemistry, Fehmi Damkaci, “strongly encouraged” pursuing this option, Bendinskas said, and everybody realized this provided an excellent way to give paid local internships to chemistry and biochemistry students. While the grain lab in partnership with the Port of Oswego Authority is local, most lab-based internship opportunities for students are significantly farther away.

“It’s exciting that it’s local,” Bendinskas said. “It’s exciting that my lab manager/technician is one of our former students, and this also will provide the opportunity for other students to learn the trade. Rigorous protocols and good quality of work are important. It’s also good to maintain and strengthen these skills over time.”

Bendinskas noted he had three talented interns lined up for this semester and looks forward to providing this opportunity for a long time to come in the future.

The startup began in earnest in July, and many clients have already lined up – including the University of Colorado, Colorado State, University of Denver, Harvard University, Long Island Veterinary School and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Commercial clients have shown interest as well, and the services also line up with physicians’ needs around the country.

“It’s surprising,” Bendinskas admitted. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Bendinskas has been very happy to receive the support of the President's Office -- including Officer in Charge Mary Toale and Kristi Eck, chief of staff and executive director of strategic initiatives, external partnerships and legislative affairs -- and Scott Furlong, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Kristin Croyle, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; faculty in the School of Business; and representatives from Oswego County.

I'm very thankful to Oswego County for being such supportive hosts of this new venture. The Oswego County Business Expansion Center provided a very economically feasible option for the space in a secure location,” Bendinskas noted. “It’s a startup so it’s not a big space –- 16 feet by 16 feet –- but it’s enough for one manager and three interns to work in.”

Bendinskas stressed that he is following all guidelines to separate the startup from his official college duties, with a different space, different equipment and different workforce to separate clients from academic collaborators.

“I'm 100 percent sure that it is a win-win-win for Oswego’s students' success, the Oswego's Chemistry Department and all of my collaborators and clients,” Bendinskas said.