Chronic kidney disease (CKD) represents a leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for this disease, with current treatment strategies relying on blood pressure control through blockade of the renin-angiotensin system. Such approaches only delay the development of end-stage kidney disease and can be associated with serious side effects. Recent identification of several novel mechanisms contributing to CKD development - including vascular changes, loss of podocytes and renal epithelial cells, matrix deposition, inflammation and metabolic dysregulation - has revealed new potential therapeutic approaches for CKD. This Review assesses emerging strategies and agents for CKD treatment, highlighting the associated challenges in their clinical development.