Ectopic expression of defined sets of genetic factors can reprogram somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that closely resemble embryonic stem (ES) cells. The low efficiency with which iPS cells are derived hinders studies on the molecular mechanism of reprogramming, and integration of viral transgenes, in particular the oncogenes c-Myc and Klf4, may handicap this method for human therapeutic applications. Here we report that valproic acid (VPA), a histone deacetylase inhibitor, enables reprogramming of primary human fibroblasts with only two factors, Oct4 and Sox2, without the need for the oncogenes c-Myc or Klf4. The two factor-induced human iPS cells resemble human ES cells in pluripotency, global gene expression profiles and epigenetic states. These results support the possibility of reprogramming through purely chemical means, which would make therapeutic use of reprogrammed cells safer and more practical.