Programming Chemical Reaction Networks

This  presentation, given by external lecturer Luca Cardelli, was recorded at a network meeting on 27 March 2019 at Oxford University.

Please find the video embedded below.


Chemical reactions have been widely used to describe natural phenomena, but increasingly we are capable of using them to prescribe physical interactions, e.g. in DNA computing and synthetic biology.
Thus, chemical reaction networks can be used as naturally concurrent programs that can be physically realized to produce and control molecular arrangements. Because of their relative simplicity and familiarity, and more subtly because of their computational power, they
are quickly becoming a paradigmatic “programming language” for bioengineering. We discuss what can be programmed with chemical reactions, how these programs can be physically realized, and how they relate to the theory of concurrency.

Lecturer biography:

Luca Cardelli has an M.Sc. in computer science from the University of Pisa, and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Edinburgh. He worked in the USA at Bell Labs, Murray Hill, from 1982 to 1985, and at Digital Equipment Corporation, Systems Research Center in Palo Alto, from 1985 to 1997, and at Microsoft Research, in Cambridge UK from 1997 to 2018 where he was head of the Programming Principles and Tools and Security groups until 2012. Since 2013 he is a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford.
His main interests are in programming languages and concurrency, and more recently in programmable biology and nanotechnology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, an Elected Member of the Academia Europaea, and an Elected Member of the Association Internationale pour les Technologies Objets. His web page is at

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