Insulin remains indispensable in the treatment of diabetes, but its use is hampered by its narrow therapeutic index. Although advances in peptide chemistry and recombinant DNA-based macromolecule synthesis have enabled the synthesis of structurally optimized insulin analogues, the growing epidemics of obesity and diabetes have emphasized the need for diabetes therapies that are more efficacious, safe and convenient. Accordingly, a broad set of drug candidates, targeting hyperglycaemia plus other disease abnormalities, is now progressing through the clinic. The development of an insulin therapy that is responsive to glucose concentration remains an ultimate goal, with initial prototypes now reaching the proof-of-concept stage. Simultaneously, the first alternatives to injectable delivery have progressed to registration.