pp 1-27 | Cite as

A Periodic Table for Life and Medicines

  • Russell J. Needham
  • Peter J. SadlerEmail author
Part of the Structure and Bonding book series


Mendeleev’s periodic table of 63 elements, now extended to 118 elements, provides a basis for asking rational questions about which elements are essential for human life and which can be used in the design of medicines. However, the extent of such knowledge is relatively poor, and greatly in need of further investigation. We describe how the periodic table has inspired our curiosity about inorganic chemistry in the human body (and other organisms), about genetically encoded natural selection of elements, and the design of novel metallodrugs with new mechanisms of action. We highlight the importance in metallodrug design of not only the metal itself and its oxidation state, but also the nature of the ligands and their substituents, which affect both the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of metal complexes, and their biological activity. There is much scope for the design of new medicines with novel mechanisms of action to fight resistant diseases, but understanding the coordination chemistry of metal complexes in complicated biological media and tissues is a major challenge, requiring the introduction of new experimental methods.


Anticancer complexes Bioinorganic chemistry Inorganic chemical biology Medicinal inorganic chemistry Metallodrug design 



Aspartic acid










Copper transporter 1






Electron paramagnetic resonance




Guanosine 5′-monophosphate


Glutathione (γ-L-Glu-L-Cys-Gly)


Oxidised glutathione




Heteronuclear single quantum coherence




Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus


Oxidised nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide


Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide


Nuclear magnetic resonance









We thank the EPSRC (grant EP/P030572/1), Wellcome Trust (grant 107691/Z/15/Z), ERC (grant 247450), Royal Society, China Scholarship Council, AngloAmerican, and other bodies for their support for our research, as well as all our collaborators.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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