1986 Outstanding Contributions in a Selected Area of Research
Helen K. Berry received the 14th AACC Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research. This award is sponsored by Roche Diagnostic Systems.
Helen K. Berry was born in Dallas, TX. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she received the B.S. in chemistry in 1947 and the M.A. in biochemistry and genetics in 1949. Her professional career began as a research scientist in the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, working with Dr. Roger J. Williams. She was a pioneer in the development of paper-chromatographic procedures for detection and measurement of amino acids, carbohydrates, organic acids, phenolic acids, and other components of biological fluids. This work continued after moving to Ohio and joining the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. There in 1956 she began one of the early programs in the United States for treatment of phenylketonuria (PKU). In 1958 she initiated one of the first programs to screen newborn infants for PKU. The methods she established for diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of patients with PKU are followed by other investigators involved with treatment of PKU throughout the U.S. and other countries. Her work on PKU screening and treatment—including the application of paper chromatography to the study of metabolic disorders—was cited in 1976 by the President’s Biomedical Research Panel.
Mrs. Berry is professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She was director of the Division of Inborn Errors of Metabolism of the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation from 1968 to 1985, when it became part of the Division of Basic Science Research. She is director of the Metabolic Disease Center of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
The Cincinnati group is one of a few clinics in the U.S. to hold the philosophy that, for the PKU patient, compliance with a special diet and its long-term use into adulthood are necessary to prevent regression of mental and physical function. Because of the restrictive nature of the diet for treatment of PKU, especially for adolescents and young adults, Mrs. Berry sought alternative treatments. After extensive investigation of an animal model of PKU, she developed and patented the use of three amino acids (valine, isoleucine, and leucine) as an adjunct to the PKU dietary therapy. This was the first new approach to treatment of PKU since introduction of the low-phenylalanine diet 30 years ago. Clinical trials of VIL are in progress, supported by funds from the Orphan Product Development Program of the Food and Drug Administration.
Mrs. Berry has been chief investigator on numerous federally funded grants including a current grant, now in its 22nd year. She has published over 100 articles in reviewed journals and has contributed to many monographs and books. She is a member of several scientific societies and was a founding member of the Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders. She has been a member of AACC since 1972.