It is now widely accepted that the current standard of care for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients is inadequate. There has not been a new medication approved for this disease in thirty years. Attempts to develop and test new drugs have been ongoing since the mid-1990s, but have encountered formidable obstacles. Current models for lupus pathogenesis have provided a theoretical framework for understanding how heterogeneous genetic defects might combine in various ways to increase susceptibility to SLE in different individuals, and could have important implications for new drug development. With the current burst of drug discovery and increased public awareness of SLE, the impetus to overcome these obstacles has never been greater.