Mini-proteins, polypeptides containing less than 100 amino acids, such as (animal toxins, protease inhibitors, knottins, zinc fingers, etc.) represent successful structural solutions to the need to express a specific binding activity in different biological contexts. Artificial mini-proteins have also been designed de novo, representing simplified versions of natural folds and containing natural or artificial connectivities. Both systems have been used as structural scaffolds in the engineering of novel binding activities, according to three main approaches i) incorporation of functional protein epitopes into structurally compatible regions of mini-protein scaffolds ii) random mutagenesis and functional selection of particular structural regions of mini-protein scaffolds iii) minimization of protein domains by the use of sequence randomization and functional selection, combined with structural information, in an iterative process. These newly engineered mini-proteins, with specific and high binding affinities within a small size and well-defined three-dimensional structure, represent novel tools in biology, biotechnology and medical sciences. In addition, some of them can also be directly used in therapy or present high potential to serve as drugs. In all cases, they represent precious structural intermediates useful to identify frameworks for peptidomimetic design or directly lead to new small organic structures, representing novel drug candidates. The engineering of novel functional mini-proteins has the potential to become a fundamental step towards the conversion of a protein functional epitope or a flexible peptide lead into a classical pharmaceutical.