Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) are involved in DNA repair following damage by endogenous or exogenous processes. It has become clear over the past decade that inhibition of PARP in the context of defects in other DNA repair mechanisms provide a tumor specific way to kill cancer cells. We describe the rationale for this approach and the design and discovery of niraparib, a potent PARP-1/2 inhibitor with good cell based activity, selectivity for cancer over normal cells, and oral bioavailability. Niraparib was characterized in a number of preclinical models before moving to phase I clinical trials, where it showed excellent human pharmacokinetics suitable for once a day oral dosing, achieved its pharmacodynamic target for PARP inhibition, and had promising activity in cancer patients. It is currently being tested in phase 3 clinical trials as maintenance therapy in ovarian cancer and as a treatment for breast cancer.