Inventions: Cryosurgical Instruments
By Lee Michaelides
Inventor: Ralph E. Crump
Ralph Crump, a member of the Thayer Board of Overseers from 1986 to 2009, has long had an eye for the eye. In the 1960s he invented a tiny refrigerator that was, for 16 years, the state-of-the-art technology for cataract removal. The “cryosurgical instrument” that froze and safely removed cataracts was produced by his company, Frigitronics, and was later adapted for other surgical procedures. Frigitronics also invented a soft contact lens originally intended as a drug delivery device. It proved so comfortable that it became a consumer product known as the SoftCon lens.
Crump has been involved with Thayer ever since the 1960s, when Dean Myron Tribus, formerly Crump’s teacher and colleague at UCLA, tapped him to help guide entrepreneurial activities. Crump became an avid supporter of the work Professor John Collier ’72 Th’77 was doing on orthopedic implants.
Crump also turned an interested eye on grad student Stuart Trembly Th’83. “We discussed treating near-sightedness by application of microwave energy to the cornea,” says Trembly, now a Thayer professor. That meeting of the minds led Trembly to start Avedro, a company that offers a less invasive alternative to Lasik. “Avedro,” says Trembly, “treated its first patients last spring using the microwave technology that came directly out of the original discussions with Ralph.”
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