During the past decade several display methods and other library screening techniques have been developed for isolating monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from large collections of recombinant antibody fragments. These technologies are now widely exploited to build human antibodies with high affinity and specificity. Clever antibody library designs and selection concepts are now able to identify mAb leads with virtually any specificity. Innovative strategies enable directed evolution of binding sites with ultra-high affinity, high stability and increased potency, sometimes to a level that cannot be achieved by immunization. Automation of the technology is making it possible to identify hundreds of different antibody leads to a single therapeutic target. With the first antibody of this new generation, adalimumab (Humira, a human IgG1 specific for human tumor necrosis factor (TNF)), already approved for therapy and with many more in clinical trials, these recombinant antibody technologies will provide a solid basis for the discovery of antibody-based biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics and research reagents for decades to come.