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November 2017

Ryan Dennis Linear Science

by Debbie Blossom

Growing up in a farm family in Macomb, Oklahoma, Dr. Ryan Dennis might not have envisioned a successful future in medicine, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Yet today, that is where Dennis has landed – as a Norman-based physician and founder and chief executive office of a company that has developed a medical device that keeps hospital patients from becoming accidently disconnected from their IV tubing.
Linear Health Sciences was founded in the spring of 2015, and his Orchid valve was created after Dennis said he repeatedly saw his hospital patients’ IV lines become disconnected, often from something as simple as a patient getting up during the night to go to the bathroom.
Patients then had to have those IV lines reinserted, which is painful, time consuming and costly for the patient and the hospital.
To Dennis, there had to be a better way.
“It has always been a dream of mine to find a problem in medicine and then implement a solution that made economic sense for all,” he said. “This is rooted in a belief based on experience that financial incentive drives the fastest development and would serve as my best chance to see such an idea adopted in the same place I practice.”
That brainstorming, with an engineer and an infusion disposables industry insider, created the valve which Dennis believes is set to transform how patients are connected to treatments.
“The idea for the orchid safety release valve was inspired by valves in the energy industry such as those on gas pumps,” he said. “I happened to have an acquaintance who helped design the breakaway valves for natural gas vehicle pumps. He was starved for design engineering in his corporate job and was excited to join startup life.”
That pairing led to meeting another Linear founder, Dan Clark.
“Dan has an engineering and business background and had a high ranking position in the medical device market working directly with the type of companies who would be our potential acquirers. His role also included bringing new technologies to market so he was a perfect choice for rounding out the founding team.”
With creating new technology, securing financing is crucial to moving forward.
“We used our Oklahoma network for funding,” Dennis said, which included working with Crowe Dunlevy for intellectual property development.
But his team also discovered i2E, a nonprofit organization that advises and supports many of Oklahoma’s technology-based startups. “When I found out about i2E I requested a qualified introduction to Scott Meacham for a pitch, and we were welcomed with open arms from day one at i2E and just closed our second round of funding with them as lead investor,” he said.
“I cannot think of a better investment partner. They have given us room to learn and grow but certainly ensured investors interests were always protected along the way. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about our funding path to this point.”
Linear has also benefitted from support from the state-sponsored Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.
And he also credits another Oklahoma institution for his drive and ability to look beyond existing conditions. After deciding to become a doctor at quite the young age, Dennis said he was advised that the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics was where he needed to spend those formative high school years.
“OSSM taught me very early on to question the status quo, and that fundamental change in perspective on the world makes every day an inspiration for invention,” he said. “OSSM even directly supported my fledgling entrepreneurial spirit by partnering with a local investment firm to offer a venture scholarship based on creation of a novel technology and business plan to commercialize it.  I still remember how much I enjoyed that application process and will always be grateful for the confidence it gave me when I won.”
Dennis later graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and received his medical degree from the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Oklahoma has fueled his entrepreneurial spirit, he said, and that support is expected to continue as the Orchid valve goes through the process for FDA approval.
The state’s entrepreneurs should take note.
“My advice is to walk through life daily asking the question why . . . why does this exist, what problem is it solving, and could there be a better way,” Dennis said. “You don’t have to immediately know what that better way is to be inspired to create change. I would also caution about a very common misstep I see that comes from doing this process backwards. People will say, hey, I have this idea … that conversation typically ends with realizing they have a great solution for a really small problem nobody is willing to pay to solve,” he added.
“The trick to entrepreneurial success is finding a problem worth solving, that people will pay you to solve, and only then finding a solution that fits what the customer wants.”

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