Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a commercially valuable medical biopolymer increasingly produced through microbial fermentation. Viscosity limits product yield and the focus of research and development has been on improving the key quality parameters, purity and molecular weight. Traditional strain and process optimisation has yielded significant improvements, but appears to have reached a limit. Metabolic engineering is providing new opportunities and HA produced in a heterologous host is about to enter the market. In order to realise the full potential of metabolic engineering, however, greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying chain termination is required.