We introduce the continuous π-calculus, a process algebra for modelling behaviour and variation in molecular systems. Key features of the language are: its expressive succinctness; support for diverse interaction between agents via a flexible network of molecular affinities; and operational semantics for a continuous space of processes. This compositional semantics also gives a modular way to generate conventional differential equations for system behaviour over time. We illustrate these features with a model of an existing biological system, a simple oscillatory pathway in cyanobacteria. We then discuss future research directions, in particular routes to applying the calculus in the study of evolutionary properties of biochemical pathways.