Poly(β-amino esters) prepared from the conjugate addition of bis(secondary amines) or primary amines to a bis(acrylate ester) are described. Methods of preparing these polymers from commercially available starting materials are also provided. These tertiary amine-containing polymers are preferably biodegradable and biocompatible and may be used in a variety of drug delivery systems. Given the poly(amine) nature of these polymers, they are particularly suited for the delivery of polynucleotides. Nanoparticles containing polymer/polynucleotide complexes have been prepared. The inventive polymers may also be used to encapsulate other agents to be delivered. They are particularly useful in delivering labile agents given their ability to buffer the pH of their surroundings.