Unit | Disease Dynamics

The Disease Dynamics unit develops and uses approaches in computational sciences, statistics and mathematical modelling to understand and address contemporary issues in infectious diseases and global health. We work in the areas of malaria and neglected tropical diseases, and recently SARS-CoV-2 to support efforts against the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Using Models to Understand Diseases

We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers that develop and use models to understand diseases and to inform public health decision-making. We design data, biological, and epidemiological informed mathematical models covering all aspects of disease and treatment dynamics — within-host immune and infection; population transmission; parasite and vector life-cycles; health systems access and interventions; as well as detailed interactions with pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.

We use these models to understand disease progression, pathogenesis and disease, and to estimate impacts of health interventions in individual or at the population level, in the contexts of real-world health systems. Overall contributing to both biological, epidemiological insights and informing evidence public health impact.

Our research, while aiming to improve knowledge on fundamental questions in disease dynamics, is rooted in increasing public health impact of interventions aiming to eliminate, prevent or treat infectious diseases.

Our work helps estimate the potential of new innovations against infectious diseases, such as new drugs, immune therapies or ways of killing mosquitoes.  Our models and algorithms help evaluate possible intervention strategies and support allocating resources in order to achieve effective and equitable impact on infectious diseases, including for emerging diseases.  We work closely with other research institutions in Switzerland and abroad. Our audience includes researchers, global health donors and public health policy makers.


Our malaria research contributes to the Swiss TPH role as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Modelling, Monitoring and Training for Malaria Control and Elimination and we are a member of the malaria modelling consortium.

Our neglected tropical disease research is part of the NTD modelling consortium.

We also contribute to the Data and Modelling expert group of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Taskforce.


Melissa Penny

Professor Melissa Penny, PhD, PD

Burgert L et al. 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 et al. 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 et al. 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

Stader F et al. Effect of ageing on antiretroviral drug pharmacokinetics using clinical data combined with modelling and simulation. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2020(in press). DOI: 10.1111/bcp.14402