Development of therapeutic agents for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) viral infection using short interfering RNA (siRNA) inhibitors exemplifies a powerful new means to combat emerging infectious diseases. Potent siRNA inhibitors of SARS coronavirus (SCV) in vitro were further evaluated for efficacy and safety in a rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) SARS model using clinically viable delivery while comparing three dosing regimens. Observations of SARS-like symptoms, measurements of SCV RNA presence and lung histopathology and immunohistochemistry consistently showed siRNA-mediated anti-SARS efficacy by either prophylactic or therapeutic regimens. The siRNAs used provided relief from SCV infection-induced fever, diminished SCV viral levels and reduced acute diffuse alveoli damage. The 10-40 mg/kg accumulated dosages of siRNA did not show any sign of siRNA-induced toxicity. These results suggest that a clinical investigation is warranted and illustrate the prospects for siRNA to enable a massive reduction in development time for new targeted therapeutic agents.