Synthetic methods in polymer chemistry have evolved tremendously during the last decade. Nowadays more and more attention is devoted to the application of those tools in the development of the next generation of nanomedicines. Nevertheless, poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) remains the most frequently used polymer for biomedical applications. In this review, we try to summarize recent efforts and developments in controlled polymerisation techniques that may allow alternatives to PEG based systems and can be used to improve the properties of future polymer therapeutics. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.