The development of additional acute stroke therapies to complement and supplement intravenous recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator within the first 3 hours after stroke onset remains an important and pressing need. Much has been learned about the presumed target of acute stroke therapy, the ischemic penumbra, and clinically available imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography hold great promise for at least partially identifying this region of potentially salvageable ischemic tissue. Understanding the biology of ischemia-related cell injury has also evolved rapidly. New treatment approaches to improve outcome after focal brain ischemia will likely be derived by looking at naturally occurring adaptive mechanisms such as those related to ischemic preconditioning and hibernation. Many clinical trials previously performed with a variety of neuroprotective and thrombolytic drugs provide many lessons that will help to guide future acute stroke therapy trials and enhance the likelihood of success in future trials. Combining knowledge from these three areas provides optimism that additional acute stroke therapies can be developed to maximize beneficial functional outcome in the greatest proportion of acute stroke patients possible.