The validation of biomarkers has become a key goal of translational biomedical research. The purpose of this article is to discuss the role of biomarkers in the management of acute lung injury (ALI) and related research. Biomarkers should be sensitive and specific indicators of clinically important processes and should change in a relevant timeframe to affect recruitment to trials or clinical management. We do not believe that they necessarily need to reflect pathogenic processes. We critically examined current strategies used to identify biomarkers and which, owing to expedience, have been dominated by reanalysis of blood derived markers from large multicenter Phase 3 studies. Combining new and existing validated biomarkers with physiological and other data may add predictive power and facilitate the development of important aids to research and therapy.