The past 3 years have witnessed the spectacular irruption of lentiviral vectors into the limelight of the gene therapy scene. Owing to their ability to deliver transgenes in tissues that had long appeared irremediably refractory to stable genetic manipulation, lentivectors have opened fresh perspectives for the genetic treatment of a wide array of hereditary as well as acquired disorders, and a concrete proposal for their clinical use seems imminent. This article traces the path that has led to this rapid development and describes the current state of the art in the design and production of lentiviral vectors. The important question of biosafety is discussed. This system seems to have the edge over other gene delivery tools for particular targets, however, there remain several issues to be resolved before lentivectors make it to the bedside. Gene Therapy (2000) 7, 20-23.