There is an urgent need to develop new drugs against eukaryotic parasitic protozoa such as Plasmodium, Trypanosoma and Leishmania, which cause the diseases malaria, trypanosomiasis and the leishmaniases respectively. The biology of these organisms has many unusual facets that might be exploited for drug design, and the recent availability of parasite genome sequence data has facilitated the search for novel drug targets. Here we review current understanding of the cell cycle in these parasites and show that important structural and functional differences exist between parasite and mammalian cell cycle control machineries and signal transduction pathways, which might be utilised for rational drug design. Potential targets include protein kinases from the cyclin-dependent kinase, cAMP-dependent kinase and mitogen activated protein kinase families.