In this thesis, chitosan, a biocompatible polysaccharide that has been approved as a food additive was selected as a platform for the development of safe, efficient non-viral gene delivery systems to mammalian cells. Previously, chitosan-based gene formulations had been generally associated with high molecular weight chitosans, which were poorly characterised in terms of molecular weight distribution and degree of acetylation. Therefore, in order to improve the properties of chitosan-based gene formulations, the research associated with this thesis focused on establishing the structure-property relationships of well-defined, low molecular weight chitosans (chitosan oligomers) as delivery systems for nucleic acids (pDNA and siRNA) in vitro and after lung administration in vivo. pDNA dissociated more easily from chitosan oligomers than from conventional high molecular weight chitosans, resulting in a faster onset and higher levels of in vivo gene expression, comparable to those mediated by polyethyleneimine (PEI), one of the most efficient non-viral delivery systems. Coupling of a trisaccharide branch to the chitosan oligomers so as to target extracellular lectins resulted in a significant improvement in transfection efficiency because of enhanced cellular uptake and colloidal stability. In contrast to pDNA, longer linear chitosan oligomers were required to form physically-stable nanoparticles with siRNA that mediated efficient, sustained gene silencing in vitro. Finally, the use of an optimised catheter device for the nebulisation of small volumes of pDNA formulations resulted in improved dose precision and lung distribution in vivo compared with conventional intratracheal instillation. In conclusion, chitosan oligomers are interesting and viable alternatives to other non-viral gene delivery systems.