Kenneth L. Rinehart, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who was internationally known for his research on organic compounds involved in biological activity, died June 13, 2005 at his Urbana home after a long illness. He was 76.
Rinehart’s research led to the development of a procedure involving mutasynthesis to prepare new antibiotics. He also led the chemistry department’s marine natural products program that collected samples from the ocean floor in the mangroves off Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
In 1990, Rinehart isolated several extracts produced naturally by sea squirts that showed promise as anti-cancer agents. One of the extracts, ecteinasciden, has repeatedly worked safely and effectively in animal studies and through three stages of human clinical trials against soft-tissue sarcomas and lung, breast and ovarian cancers. Rinehart identified the substance, also known as ET-743, in his Illinois laboratory; the university licensed the rights to the compound to PharmaMar SA of Spain for production purposes.
Rinehart was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1980. He also was a Sloan Fellow and Guggenheim Fellow. He received the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products in 1996 from the American Chemical Society. Rinehart joined the Illinois faculty as an instructor in organic chemistry in 1954. He retired in September 1, 2000. He was born March 17, 1929, in Chillicothe, Mo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1950 from Yale University and a doctorate in chemistry in 1954 from the University of California at Berkeley. In between, he spent a year of study as a Rotary Fellow at the University of Goettingen in Germany.
Early in his career, Rinehart played a leading role in obtaining the initial funding for state-of-the art mass spectometry equipment at Illinois.
Ken Rinehart served on the editorial boards of several journals, including the Journal of Antibiotics, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and the Journal of Natural Products. He also had served on the Chemistry Advisory Committee of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (1971-75), the Chemical and Biological Information Handling Panel of the National Institutes of Health (1969-1974) and the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society's Division of Organic Chemistry (1968-1970). He was an avid scuba diver, mountain climber and skier.
Rinehart is survived by his wife, Marlyn; three sons, Kenneth L. Rinehart III of Tucson, Ariz., John Benjamin Rinehart of Cambridge, Mass., and Nicholas Whitsitt Rinehart of Champaign; and two grandsons.
Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor