Complete DNA sequence information has now been obtained for several prokaryotic genomes, defining the entire genetic complement of these organisms. The collection of genomic data has provided new insights into the molecular architecture of bacterial cells, revealing the basic genetic and metabolic structures that support viability of the organisms. Genomic information has also revealed new avenues for inhibition of bacterial growth and viability, expanding the number of possible drug targets for antibiotic discovery. This review examines how genomic sciences and experimental tools are applied to antibacterial target discovery, the necessary first step in the development of new antibiotic classes. Significant advances have been realized in the development of functional genomic, comparative genomic, and proteomic methods for the analysis of completed genomes. The combination of these methods can be used to systematically parse the genome and identify targets worthy of inhibitor screens. Two basic categories of targets emerge from this exercise, comprising in vitro essential targets required for bacterial viability on synthetic media and in vivo essential targets required to establish and maintain infection within a host organism. Current use of genomic information is focused primarily on a definition of all in vitro essential targets that satisfy criteria of selectivity, spectrum, and novelty. As the genomes of additional bacterial pathogens are solved, it will be possible to select in vivo essential targets common to groups of select pathogens (e.g., bacterial agents of community acquired pneumonia) or even pathogen-specific targets. Consideration of host-pathogen interactions, defined at the level of gene expression for each organism, might provide novel therapeutic options in the future.