Human airway epithelial cell targeting peptides were identified by biopanning on 1HAEo-cells, a well characterised epithelial cell line. Bound phage were recovered after three rounds of binding, high stringency washing and elution, leading to the production of an enriched phage peptide population. DNA sequencing of 56 clones revealed 14 unique sequences. Subsequent binding analysis revealed that 13 of these peptides bound 1HAEo-cells with high affinity. Three peptides, SERSMNF, YGLPHKF and PSGAARA were represented at high frequency. Three clearly defined families of peptide were identified on the basis of sequence motifs including R/KSM, LP/QHK and PSGA/TARA. Two peptides, LPHKSMP and LQHKSMP contained two motifs. Further detailed sequence analysis by comparison of peptide sequences with the SWISSPROT protein database revealed that some of the peptides closely resembled the cell binding proteins of viral and bacterial pathogens including Herpes Simplex Virus, rotavirus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and rhinovirus, the latter two being respiratory pathogens, as well as peptide YGLPHKF having similarity to a protein of unknown function from the respiratory pathogen Legionella pneumophila. Peptides were incorporated into gene delivery formulations with the cationic lipid Lipofectin and plasmid DNA and shown to confer a high degree of transfection efficiency and specificity in 1HAEo-cells. Improved transfection efficiency and specificity was also observed in human endothelial cells, fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Therefore, on the basis of clone frequency after biopanning, cell binding affinity, peptide sequence conservation and pathogenic similarity, we have identified 3 novel peptide families and 5 specific peptides that have the potential for gene transfer to respiratory epithelium in vivo as well as providing useful in vitro transfection reagents for primary human cell types of scientific and commercial interest.