To advance and facilitate molecular studies of Brugia malayi, one of the causative agents of human lymphatic filariasis, an expressed sequence tag (EST)-based gene discovery programme has been carried out. Over 22,000 ESTs have been produced and deposited in the public databases by a consortium of laboratories from endemic and non-endemic countries. The ESTs have been analysed using custom informatic tools to reveal patterns of individual gene expression that may point to potential targets for future research on anti-filarial drugs and vaccines. Many genes first discovered as ESTs are now being analysed by researchers for immunodiagnostic, vaccine and drug target potential. Building on the success of the B. malayi EST programme, significant EST datasets are being generated for a number of other major parasites of humans and domesticated animals, and model parasitic species.