Professor Melissa Penny, PhD, PD

Professional activities at Swiss TPH

Professor Melissa Penny is currently the head of the Disease Modelling Research Unit. Her research focuses on developing and using mathematical models to understand pathogen, host and intervention dynamics. Currently a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Professor, the main aim of her research is to generate evidence for decision-making along the whole pathway of new disease intervention development, from preclinical to clinical testing, and at implementation in real populations and health systems. Her particular interests are in vaccines and drugs for parasitic infections, in particular Plasmodium falciparum, as well as for viruses. While focusing on the analysis of disease and clinical data to inform the development of pathogen within-host and epidemiological models, her research ultimately aims to inform and improve model-based evidence for decsion making.

Impact: Her research has supported a range of policy decisions, including WHO recommendations and funding decisions on the world's first malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01. Her group continues to support the analysis of novel medical interventions against malaria, aiming to support development of vaccines or other therapeutics achieving greater public health benefit.

In 2020-2021 she was a member of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, contributing model-based evidence to predict the likely development of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her group's new models explore the impact of vaccinations and new variants of concern for COVID-19. 

She is currently the member of several WHO technical working groups and WHO Guideline Development Groups for malaria (including Chemoprevention and Elimination).

More details of her projects can be found here

Selected publications are listed below, and more can be found on google scholar or ORCID. Her twitter handle is @melissa_a_penny

Higher education and qualifications

  • SNF Professorship, University of Basel (2017-present)
  • PD, Habilitation at the University of Basel (2017)
  • PhD, in Applied Mathematics, Queensland University of Technology (2002-2005)
  • BSc (Hons) Bachelor of Applied Science with Honours (Mathematics, First Class Honours) Queensland University of Technology (1998-2001)

Teaching focus at Swiss TPH and University of Basel

  • Mathematical modelling of Infectious Diseases
  • Malaria Epidemiology and Control

Current and past professional positions

  • 2020- present: Unit Head: Disease Modelling Unit at Swiss TPH, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2017- present: SNF Professor at University of Basel, Switzerland
  • 2017- 2020: Group Head at Swiss TPH, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2013- 2017: Scientific Project leader at Swiss TPH, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2009-2013 Senior Scientific collaborator at Swiss TPH, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2006-2009 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Swiss TPH, Basel, Switzerland
  • 2002-2006: PhD Candidate, Queensland University of Technology; Brisbane, Australia
  • 2001-2005; Lecturer and tutor for undergraduate courses in applied mathematics, Queensland University of Technology; Brisbane Australia



Burgert L, Zaloumis S, Dini S, Marquart L, Cao P, Cherkaoui M, Gobeau N, McCarthy J, Simpson J.A, Möhrle J.J, Penny M.A. Parasite-host dynamics throughout antimalarial drug development stages complicate the translation of parasite clearance. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2021;65(4):e01539-20. DOI: 10.1128/AAC.01539-20

Galactionova K, Smith T.A, Penny M.A. Insights from modelling malaria vaccines for policy decisions: the focus on RTS,S. Malar J. 2021;20:439. DOI: 10.1186/s12936-021-03973-y

Reiker T, Golumbeanu M, Shattock A, Burgert L, Smith T.A, Filippi S, Cameron E, Penny M.A. Emulator-based Bayesian optimization for efficient multi-objective calibration of an individual-based model of malaria. Nat Commun. 2021;12:7212. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-27486-z

Shattock A.J, Le Rütte E.A, Dünner R.P, Sen S, Kelly S.L, Chitnis N, Penny M.A. Impact of vaccination and non-pharmaceutical interventions on SARS-CoV-2 dynamics in Switzerland. Epidemics. 2021;38:100535. DOI: 10.1016/j.epidem.2021.100535

Stader F, Courlet P, Kinvig H, Penny M.A, Decosterd L.A, Battegay M, Siccardi M, Marzolini C. Clinical data combined with modelling and simulation indicate unchanged drug-drug interaction magnitudes in the elderly. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2021;109(2):471-484. DOI: 10.1002/cpt.2017

Burgert L, Rottmann M, Wittlin S, Gobeau N, Krause A, Dingemanse J, Möhrle J.J, Penny M.A. Ensemble modeling highlights importance of understanding parasite-host behavior in preclinical antimalarial drug development. Sci Rep. 2020;10:4410. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-61304-8

Camponovo F, Campo J.J, Le T.Q, Oberai A, Hung C, Pablo J.V, Teng A.A, Liang X, Sim B.K.L, Jongo S, Abdulla S, Tanner M, Hoffman S.L, Daubenberger C, Penny M. Proteome-wide analysis of a malaria vaccine study reveals personalized humoral immune profiles in Tanzanian adults. Elife. 2020;9:e53080. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.53080

Galactionova K, Velarde M, Silumbe K, Miller J, McDonnell A, Aguas R, Smith T.A, Penny M.A. Costing malaria interventions from pilots to elimination programmes. Malar J. 2020;19:332. DOI: 10.1186/s12936-020-03405-3

Penny M.A, Camponovo F, Chitnis N, Smith T.A, Tanner M. Future use-cases of vaccines in malaria control and elimination. Parasite Epidemiol Control. 2020;10:e00145. DOI: 10.1016/j.parepi.2020.e00145