Microneedles were first conceptualized for drug delivery many decades ago, but only became the subject of significant research starting in the mid-1990's when microfabrication technology enabled their manufacture as (i) solid microneedles for skin pretreatment to increase skin permeability, (ii) microneedles coated with drug that dissolves off in the skin, (iii) polymer microneedles that encapsulate drug and fully dissolve in the skin and (iv) hollow microneedles for drug infusion into the skin. As shown in more than 350 papers now published in the field, microneedles have been used to deliver a broad range of different low molecular weight drugs, biotherapeutics and vaccines, including published human studies with a number of small-molecule and protein drugs and vaccines. Influenza vaccination using a hollow microneedle is in widespread clinical use and a number of solid microneedle products are sold for cosmetic purposes. In addition to applications in the skin, microneedles have also been adapted for delivery of bioactives into the eye and into cells. Successful application of microneedles depends on device function that facilitates microneedle insertion and possible infusion into skin, skin recovery after microneedle removal, and drug stability during manufacturing, storage and delivery, and on patient outcomes, including lack of pain, skin irritation and skin infection, in addition to drug efficacy and safety. Building off a strong technology base and multiple demonstrations of successful drug delivery, microneedles are poised to advance further into clinical practice to enable better pharmaceutical therapies, vaccination and other applications. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.