Today, the majority of pharmaceuticals developed to treat cancers and viral / bacterial infections target cellular, bacterial or viral proteins known to be associated with a given pathology. Although proteins are the focus of most current drug discovery efforts, exciting new research has recently begun which aims to exploit ribonucleic acid (RNA) and RNP particles as novel targets for pharmaceutical development. These RNA-targeted research efforts have been fueled by an increased appreciation for the central role played by RNA and RNA-protein interactions in many biological processes and diseases, together with a better understanding of RNA structure and an improvement in biophysical / biochemical techniques available to study RNA. As for protein targets, genome sequencing is greatly accelerating the identification of human and microbial RNA transcripts for targeted drug discovery. With this explosion in the number of potential RNA and RNP targets, the effective development of specific small mole cule RNA-based drugs requires robust and general approaches for detecting and quantifying RNA-ligand interactions, which can be used as high-throughput screens (HTS) and for obtaining rapid structural information to guide rational drug design. In this review, an overview of the potential for therapeutic intervention based on RNA and RNP targets is presented, together with recent efforts to develop generally useful nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and fluorescence binding assays for screening and optimizing drugs aimed at RNA and RNP targets.