The synthesis of surface-modified silica nanoparticles, chemically grafted with acrylate and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) groups, and the ability of the resulting crosslinked coatings to inhibit protein adsorption and bacterial adhesion are explored. Water contact angles, nanoindentation, and atomic force microscopy were used to characterize the cross-linked coatings. Coatings showed a high degree of hydrophilicity combined with a remarkable hardness and stiffness in the dry state. Adsorption of the small protein lysozyme from buffer solution on coated silica wafers decreased significantly with increasing grafting density of the PEG groups on the nanoparticles and was completely inhibited at 0.6 chains nm(-2). Coatings significantly reduced adhesion of Staphylococcus epidermidis HBH 276 in a parallel plate flow chamber with respect to bare glass (>90%), whereas adhesion of Pseudomonas aeruginosa AK1 was only marginally affected by the presence of the coating (<15%). Passage of an air-bubble resulted in almost complete detachment (>93%) of both strains from coated glass, indicating that the adhesion strength between both bacterial strains and the coated surface was significantly reduced by the grafted PEG groups. These coatings thus provide a new method to prepare mechanically robust films with nonadhesive properties that will be extremely useful for the design of biocompatible surfaces in biomedical applications.