In neurological insults, such as cerebral ischemia and traumatic brain injury, complex molecular mechanisms involving inflammation and apoptosis are known to cause severe neuronal cell loss, emphasizing the necessity of developing therapeutic strategies targeting simultaneously these two processes. Over the last decade, numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated the unique therapeutical potential of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) for the treatment of neuronal disorders involving apoptotic cell death and neuroinflammation. The neuroprotective activity of PACAP is based on its capacity to reduce the production of deleterious cytokines from activated microglia, to stimulate the release of neuroprotective agents from astrocytes and to inhibit pro-apoptotic intracellular pathways. However, the use of PACAP as a clinically applicable drug is hindered by its peptidic nature. As most natural peptides, native PACAP shows poor metabolic stability, low bioavailability, inadequate distribution and rapid blood clearance. Moreover, injection of PACAP to human can induce peripheral adverse side effects. Therefore, targeted chemical modifications and/or conjugation of PACAP to different macromolecules are required to improve the pharmacokinetic and pharmacological properties of PACAP. This review presents the chemical, biochemical and pharmacological strategies that are currently under development to convert PACAP from a hypophysiotropic neurohormone into a clinically relevant neuroprotective drug.