Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

In Vivo Computation

In Vivo Computation


In Vivo Computation is one of our 10 main research themes. Find out about what we do, and which members of staff are involved.

A living cell, eg a bacterium, can be conceptualised as a machine. This machine processes matter, energy and information. 

It is composed of a series of sub-systems. These work together by sensing external stimuli and assessing their own internal states. 

These sub-systems make decisions through a network of complex and interlinked biological regulatory networks. These act as the bacterium 'neural network'.

A bacterium's decision-making processes often result in a variety of outputs. For example:

  • the manufacturing of industrially useful metabolites 
  • the creation of more cells
  • chemotaxis
  • bio-film formation

It has been shown that cells react to their environment and can even predict environmental changes.

Our research

Synthetic Biology proposes that cells are machines that can be built from parts. This is similar to electronic circuits or airplanes, for example. 

The field looks to co-opt cells for nano-computation and nano-manufacturing purposes. 

This research theme aims at making bacteria much easier to programme. It can then be harnessed for useful purposes. 


We use the theories, tools, methodologies and resources that computer science created for writing computer programmes. We find ways of making them practical and useful in the microbiology laboratory.

At the same time, we pursue advances in in vivo computation. This is programmable information-processing by biological cells. 

We are creating a brand new, unconventional, computing platform. This allows us to push the boundaries of computer science and software engineering. 

We are fundamentally probing the very nature of what 'computation' means.

Find out about our research theme staff members.


Find out which members of staff are involved in the In Vivo Computation research theme.

Dr Victor Khomenko
Reader in Formal Methods

Telephone: +44 191 208 8789

Professor Natalio Krasnogor
Prof of Comp Science (Synthetic Biology)

Telephone: +44 191 208 5035

Telephone: +44 191 208 8064