In memory of Dr. Robert Guthrie, this higher education scholarship program was started after his death in June 1995 by National PKU News. Dr. Guthrie developed the newborn screening test for phenylketonuria (PKU) in 1961. He then worked tirelessly for more than thirty years to establish newborn screening programs in the United States and many other countries. Every family of a child with PKU born after the mid-1960’s, in a country where newborn screening is done, has reaped the benefits: more than 20,000 children have been saved from devastating mental retardation caused by untreated PKU. Early screening and a special diet have allowed these young people to grow up normally and lead full, productive lives.
Dr. Richard Koch, a long-time colleague and friend of Dr. Guthrie, died on September 24, 2011. We decided to honor him by adding his name to the scholarship program. Dr. Koch dedicated his entire career of more than 50 years to identify, treat and help find a cure for PKU. His work was at the forefront of PKU treatment and research. Dr. Koch was the principal investigator on two large collaborative studies on PKU children and maternal PKU that forever changed how PKU was treated. He also lobbied tirelessly for newborn screening for PKU.
There is no question that young people with PKU who are bound for higher education programs owe this opportunity to early screening and diet treatment. Without PKU identification early in life, they could be living in institutions or group homes for people with intellectual disabilities instead of planning to attend college or technical school. It seemed fitting to establish a scholarship program in Dr. Guthrie’s name and to add to that the name of our beloved Dr. Koch. The scholarship will benefit bright young people with PKU who are planning to obtain higher education degrees through college or technical school.
From its start in 1989, Dr. Guthrie was a member of the Board of Directors of National PKU News and Dr. Koch was a consultant to National PKU News for medical issues. National PKU News is a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing news and other information to families living with PKU. Beyond their single-minded dedication to preventing the mental retardation caused by PKU through screening and proper treatment, throughout their lives, Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Koch were devoted advocates for families living with it. National PKU News was started with the strong support and encouragement of both of these amazing men.
We hope families, and others whose lives have been touched by Dr. Guthrie’s and Dr. Koch’s remarkable careers will generously support The Guthrie-Koch PKU Scholarship.