Immune-based therapies that prevent type 1 diabetes or preserve metabolic function remaining at diagnosis have become a major objective for funding agencies and international trial consortia, and receive backing from notable patient advocate groups. The development of immune-based therapeutic strategies in this arena requires a careful balancing of the risks of the therapy against the potential benefits, because many individuals are diagnosed or identified as being at increased risk of disease in early childhood, a period when manipulation of the developing immune system should be undertaken with caution. In addition, a therapy exists (daily insulin injection) that is life-saving in the acute stages of disease and can be used effectively over a lifetime as maintenance. Conversely, the disease is increasing in incidence; is peaking in ever-younger age groups; carries significant risk of increased morbidity and early mortality; and remains difficult to manage effectively in many settings. With these issues in mind, in this article we review progress towards immune-based strategies for this chronic autoimmune disease.