The application of emerging nanotechnologies in medicine showed in the last years a significant potential in the improvement of therapies. In particular, polymeric nanocarriers are currently tested to evaluate their capability to reduce side effects, to increase the residence time in the body and also to obtain a controlled release over time. In the present work a novel polymeric nanocarrier was developed and optimized to obtain, with the same chemical formulation, three different typologies of nanocarriers: dense nanospheres loaded with an active molecule (1) during nanoparticle formation and (2) after the preparation and (3) hollow nanocapsules to increase the starting drug payload. Synthetic materials considered were PEGylated acrylic copolymers, folic acid was used as model of a hydrophobic drug. The main aim is to develop an optimized nanocarrier for the transport and the enhanced release of poorly water-soluble drugs. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2015, 132, 41310.