The development of stroke drugs has been characterized by success in animal studies and subsequent failure in clinical trials. Animal studies might have overstated efficacy, or clinical trials might have understated efficacy; in either case we need to better understand the reasons for failure. Techniques borrowed from clinical trials have recently allowed the impact of publication and study-quality biases on published estimates of efficacy in animal experiments to be described. On the basis of these data, we propose minimum standards for the range and quality of pre-clinical animal data. We believe the adoption of these standards will lead to improved effectiveness and efficiency in the selection of drugs for clinical trials in stroke and in the design of those trials.