Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a monogenic autosomal recessive disorder that afects about 70 000 people worldwide. The clinical manifestations of the disease are caused by defects in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein. The discovery of the CFTR gene in 1989 has led to a sophisticated understanding of how thousands of mutations in the CFTR gene afect the structure and function of the CFTR protein. Much progress has been made over the past decade with the development of orally bioavailable small molecule drugs that target defective CFTR proteins caused by specific mutations. Furthermore, there is considerable optimism about the prospect of gene replacement or editing therapies to correct all mutations in cystic fibrosis. The recent approvals of ivacaftor and lumacaftor represent the genesis of a new era of precision medicine in the treatment of this condition. These drugs are having a positive impact on the lives of people with cystic fibrosis and are potentially disease modifying. This review provides an update on advances in our understanding of the structure and function of the CFTR, with a focus on state of the art targeted drugs that are in development.