Strategies for cardiac repair include injection of cells, but these approaches have been hampered by poor cell engraftment, survival, and differentiation. To address these shortcomings for the purpose of improving cardiac function after injury, we designed self-assembling peptide nanofibers for prolonged delivery of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a cardiomyocyte growth and differentiation factor, to the myocardium, using a "biotin sandwich" approach. Biotinylated IGF-1 was complexed with tetravalent streptavidin and then bound to biotinylated self-assembling peptides. This biotin sandwich strategy allowed binding of IGF-1 but did not prevent self-assembly of the peptides into nanofibers within the myocardium. IGF-1 that was bound to peptide nanofibers activated Akt, decreased activation of caspase-3, and increased expression of cardiac troponin I in cardiomyocytes. After injection into rat myocardium, biotinylated nanofibers provided sustained IGF-1 delivery for 28 days, and targeted delivery of IGF-1 in vivo increased activation of Akt in the myocardium. When combined with transplanted cardiomyocytes, IGF-1 delivery by biotinylated nanofibers decreased caspase-3 cleavage by 28% and increased the myocyte cross-sectional area by 25% compared with cells embedded within nanofibers alone or with untethered IGF-1. Finally, cell therapy with IGF-1 delivery by biotinylated nanofibers improved systolic function after experimental myocardial infarction, demonstrating how engineering the local cellular microenvironment can improve cell therapy.