Abstract Ischemic stroke is a major cause of death worldwide, and current therapeutic options are very limited. Preconditioning with an ischemic or hypoxic insult is beneficial in experimental models of ischemic stroke. Ischemia/hypoxia results in activation of numerous transcription factors, including hypoxia inducible factor (HIF), which is a master regulator of oxygen homeostasis. HIF activation induces a diverse range of target genes, encompassing a wide variety of cellular processes; including angiogenesis, energy metabolism, cell survival, radical production/scavenging, iron metabolism, stem cell homing, and differentiation. Inhibition of HIF prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) enzymes results in activation of HIF and is likely to mimic, at least in part, the effects of hypoxia preconditioning. A caveat is that not all consequences of HIF activation will be beneficial and some could even be deleterious. Nevertheless, PHD inhibitors may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of stroke. Prototype PHD inhibitors have shown promising results in preclinical models.