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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory disease that has been relatively under researched compared to other inflammatory diseases. Indeed, thus far there have been no anti-inflammatory therapies specifically approved for COPD and the available anti-inflammatory therapies were originally developed for asthma. The challenges facing research in COPD are multi-faceted; the mechanisms underlying the complex and heterogeneous pathology of this disease require unravelling; the role of inflammation in disease progression needs to be confirmed and new drugs with potential to successfully treat COPD need to be identified. Many of the compounds in the clinic today have been identified through the work performed in a range of animal models of COPD. These models have provided us with an understanding of disease pathology and potential mechanistic pathways and have given us the means to prioritise new chemical entities before entry into the clinic. This review will summarise currently available models of COPD and highlight how they have been used to take a first generation of anti-inflammatory therapies for COPD into clinical development. The predictive nature of these animal models will become clear as these therapies are clinically evaluated. The recurring challenge will be to take emerging pre-clinical and clinical data and use it to continually improve animal models so that they remain a valuable tool in the drug discovery process.