The medicinal chemistry of ferrocene and its derivatives

Malay Patra, Gilles Gasser

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


Ferrocene derivatives have attracted significant interest as anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic drug candidates. Discovered in the 1990s, the two most prominent derivatives, ferroquine and ferrocifen, have since been studied extensively for the treatment of malaria and cancer, respectively. The ferrocenyl moiety in these two compounds participates in important metal-specific modes of action that contribute to the overall therapeutic efficacy of the molecules. Although ferroquine is currently in phase II clinical trials and ferrocifen is in preclinical evaluation, no other ferrocene derivative — in fact, no other non-radioactive organometallic compound of any kind — has advanced into clinical trials. This Perspective delineates strategies for the systematic incorporation of ferrocenyl groups into known drugs or drug candidates, with a view to finding new drug leads. In addition, we provide a critical evaluation of the difficulties associated with obtaining the clinical approval that would enable ferrocene-containing molecules to transition from being synthetic curiosities to effective drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0066
JournalNature Reviews Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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