In Memoriam—John Ryaby

In Memoriam - John P. "Jack" Ryaby, 1934-2004

Jack RyabyJohn Peter “Jack” Ryaby was born in Garfield, NJ, in 1934. He was an excellent student, and his career began when he was given a book on electronics at the age of 12. He devoured the book and all others he could get his hands on, as he was truly captivated by electronics. He started his first business,“Jack’s Radio and TV Repair,” in the basement of his parents’ house when he was 13. By the time he was a junior in high school, it was thriving and he and his girlfriend, Louise, were well known in the neighborhood. She became his wife after High School graduation and they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January 2004.

Jack attended NJIT and received a BSEE degree, and by the time of his graduation the business employed his father, John, and his brother, Robert, who both learned electronics from Jack. Several cousins along with Jack’s son, Jim, learned electronics and it was truly a family operation. After college, Jack wanted to branch out and he moved into closed-circuit TV-based security systems, but a critical move turned out to be accepting a position as manufacturer’s representative and custom designer and builder of research instrumentation. Jack became friends with Dr. Art Pilla, and the key event that redirected his career started with Dr. Pilla on a plane to San Diego, seated next to Bob Pawluk, the right hand man of Dr. Andy Bassett from Columbia University. Bob explained that they were using electrodes to stimulate bone growth, and Dr. Pilla, an electrochemist, knew all of the problems. He suggested that Dr. Bassett meet with himself and Jack, and that was how EBI was formed. Roger Talish joined shortly thereafter, and started his 30-year history of working with Jack. EBI is now a division of Biomet, and many of EBI’s employees have been there for 25+ years, thanks in large part to Jack.

EBI received FDA approval for the bone fracture nonunion indication in 1979, and today the US-based bone stimulation business, shared among 4 companies, is approximately a $350 million business. Later in the 1980s, Jack shifted to a new type of biophysical stimuli, ultrasound stimulation, which became his focus and passion. IDE/PMA double blind trials were conducted, and a new company was formed, EXOGEN. The Exogen technology is now part of Smith and Nephew. Jack Ryaby was instrumental in getting FDA approval for this technology, and in spiriting the initial basic research and continuing clinical research on applications of ultrasound in orthopedics.

Recently, Jack started a new company, Juvent, with Roger Talish, Ken McLeod from SUNY-Binghamton, and Clint Rubin from SUNY-Stony Brook. This company is developing the dynamic motion therapy technology, for many clinical applications including osteoporosis treatment.

On the personal side, Jack lived his life to the fullest and happily shared his prosperity and success with all of his loved ones. He was loyal, forgiving and respected the ties of family and friendship. He always did what was right and put others before him. He was the support structure of all his successful business ventures as well of his family. Dr. Sol Pollack, Professor of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, wrote of Jack: “I was indeed sad to hear of the passing of Jack. He was a wonderful person and great innovator. We, and so many patients treated with the related technologies he helped to bring to the market owe him so much. He was there at the beginning, he showed us all that these biophysical stimulatory technologies were useful and then pioneered their development, their acceptance as a tool for treatment and built the companies to bring them to market. There are very few who can function on so many levels. He was one of a magnificent few. We will surely miss him.”

The best way to celebrate the life of Jack Ryaby, to remember and honor him, is to carry on with his tradition of hard work, insightful science and pioneering clinical studies, strong working relationships with key physicians and scientists, and skillful positioning with the regulatory authorities.

– Ken McLeod, Marko Markov and Jim Ryaby