Bridging the gap between nanoparticulate delivery systems and translational gene therapy is a long sought after requirement in nanomedicine-based applications. However, recent developments regarding nanoparticle functionalization have brought forward the ability to synthesize materials with biofunctional moieties that mimic the evolved features of viral particles. Herein we report the versatile conjugation of both cell penetrating arginine and pH-responsive histidine moieties into the chitosan polymeric backbone, to improve the physicochemical characteristics of the native material. Amino acid coupling was confirmed by 2D TOCSY NMR and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The synthesized chitosan-histidine-arginine (CH-H-R) polymer complexed plasmid DNA biopharmaceuticals, and spontaneously assembled into stable 105 nm nanoparticles with spherical morphology and positive surface charge. The functionalized delivery systems were efficiently internalized into the intracellular compartment, and exhibited remarkably higher transfection efficiency than unmodified chitosan without causing any cytotoxic effect. Additional findings regarding intracellular trafficking events reveal their preferential escape from degradative lysosomal pathways and nuclear localization. Overall, this assembly of nanocarriers with bioinspired moieties provides the foundations for the design of efficient and customizable materials for cancer gene therapy.