This field was initially developed by Leonard Adleman of the University of Southern California, in 1994. Adleman demonstrated a proof-of-concept use of DNA as a form of computation which solved the seven-point Hamiltonian path problem. Since the initial Adleman experiments, advances have been made and various Turing machines have been proven to be constructible.
While the initial interest was in using this novel approach to tackle NP-hard problems, it was soon realized that they may not be best suited for this type of computation, and several proposals have been made to find a "killer application" for this approach. In 1997, computer scientist Mitsunori Ogihara working with biologist Animesh Ray suggested one to be the evaluation of Boolean circuits and described an implementation.
In 2002, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, unveiled a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules instead of silicon microchips. On April 28, 2004, Ehud Shapiro, Yaakov Benenson, Binyamin Gil, Uri Ben-Dor, and Rivka Adar at the Weizmann Institute announced in the journal Nature that they had constructed a DNA computer coupled with an input and output module which would theoretically be capable of diagnosing cancerous activity within a cell, and releasing an anti-cancer drug upon diagnosis.
In January 2013, researchers were able to store a JPEG photograph, a set of Shakespearean sonnets, and an audio file of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech I Have a Dream on DNA digital data storage.
In March 2013, researchers created a transcriptor (a biological transistor).
In August 2016, researchers used the CRISPR gene-editing system to insert a GIF of a galloping horse and rider into the DNA of living bacteria.