At the time of its first clinical application 100 years ago, insulin was presented as the cure for people with diabetes mellitus. That transpired to be an overstatement, yet insulin has proven to be the lifesaver for people with type 1 diabetes mellitus and an essential therapy for many with type 2 diabetes mellitus or other forms of diabetes mellitus. Since its discovery, insulin (a molecule of only 51 amino acids) has been the subject of pharmaceutical research and development that has paved the way for other protein-based therapies. From purified animal-extracted insulin and human insulin produced by genetically modified organisms to a spectrum of insulin analogues, pharmaceutical laboratories have strived to tailor the preparations to the needs of patients. Nonetheless, overall glycaemic control often remains poor as exogenous insulin is still not able to mimic the physiological insulin profile. Circumventing subcutaneous administration and the design of analogues with profiles that mimic that of physiological insulin are ongoing areas of research. Novel concepts, such as once-weekly insulins or glucose-dependent and oral insulins, are on the horizon but their real-world effectiveness still needs to be proven. Until a true cure for type 1 diabetes mellitus is found and the therapeutic arsenal for other forms of diabetes mellitus is expanded, insulin will remain central in the treatment of many people living with diabetes mellitus.