Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disorder directed against the β cells of the pancreatic islets. The genetic risk of the disease is linked to HLA-DQ risk alleles and unknown environmental triggers. In most countries, only 10-15% of children or young adults newly diagnosed with T1DM have a first-degree relative with the disease. Autoantibodies against insulin, GAD65, IA-2 or the ZnT8 transporter mark islet autoimmunity. These islet autoantibodies may already have developed in children of 1-3 years of age. Immune therapy in T1DM is approached at three different stages. Primary prevention is treatment of individuals at increased genetic risk. For example, one trial is testing if hydrolyzed casein milk formula reduces T1DM incidence in genetically predisposed infants. Secondary prevention is targeted at individuals with persistent islet autoantibodies. Ongoing trials involve nonautoantigen-specific therapies, such as Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine or anti-CD3 monoclonal antibodies, or autoantigen-specific therapies, including oral and nasal insulin or alum-formulated recombinant human GAD65. Trial interventions at onset of T1DM have also included nonautoantigen-specific approaches, and autoantigen-specific therapies, such as proinsulin peptides. Although long-term preservation of β-cell function has been difficult to achieve in many studies, considerable progress is being made through controlled clinical trials and animal investigations towards uncovering mechanisms of β-cell destruction. Novel therapies that prevent islet autoimmunity or halt progressive β-cell destruction are needed.