Advancing knowledge regarding the biology of chronic inflammation has led to the development of specific biologic therapies that mechanistically target individual inflammatory pathways. Many biologic therapies are being evaluated for the treatment of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Biologic compounds proven to be effective for Crohn's disease include monoclonal antibodies to tumor necrosis factor (infliximab and CDP571) and to the leukocyte adhesion molecule alpha4 integrin (natalizumab). Other biologic compounds for which there is insufficient evidence to judge efficacy for inflammatory bowel disease include: p55 tumor necrosis factor binding protein (onercept); interferon alpha; interferon beta-1a; anti-interferon gamma antibody; anti-interleukin 12 antibody; p65 anti-sense oligonucleotide (blocks NF-kappaB); granulocyte colony stimulating factor, and granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor; anti-interleukin 2 receptor antibody; epidermal growth factor; keratinocyte growth factor 2 (repifermin); human growth hormone; anti-CD4 antibody; and anti-alpha4beta7 antibody. Biologic therapies that have been proven ineffective for inflammatory bowel disease include: interleukin 10; interleukin 11; anti-sense intercellular adhesion molecule-1; and the tumor necrosis factor receptor fusion protein etanercept. Based on the early successes of infliximab, CDP571 and natalizumab, it seems certain that biologic therapy will play an important role in the future treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.