In most organisms, ABC transporters constitute one of the largest families of membrane proteins. In humans, their functions are diverse and underpin numerous key physiological processes, as well as being causative factors in a number of clinically relevant pathologies. Advances in our understanding of these diseases have come about through combinations of genetic and protein biochemical investigations of these transporters and the power of in vitro and in vivo investigations is helping to develop genotype–phenotype understanding. However, the importance of ABC transporter research goes far beyond human biology; microbial ABC transporters are of great interest in terms of understanding virulence and drug resistance and industrial biotechnology researchers are exploring the potential of prokaryotic ABC exporters to increase the capacity of synthetic biology systems. Plant ABC transporters play important roles in transport of hormones, xenobiotics, metals and secondary metabolites, pathogen responses and numerous aspects of development, all of which are important in the global food security area. For 3 days in Chester, this Biochemical Society Focused Meeting brought together researchers with diverse experimental approaches and with different fundamental questions, all of which are linked by the commonality of ABC transporters.