Professor Melissa Penny, PhD, PD

Professional activities at Swiss TPH

Professor Melissa Penny leads the Disease Modelling Research Unit in the Epidemiology and Public Health department at Swiss TPH. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Basel. With over 16 years of experience, her research group focuses on developing and using mathematical models to understand the dynamics between pathogens, hosts, and interventions. Her research interests include vaccines and drugs for viruses and parasitic infections, specifically Plasmodium falciparum (malaria).

Her group's research combines the analysis of disease and clinical data with the development of pathogen within-host and epidemiological models to inform and improve the development of new therapeutics to prevent illness and cure infections. Her group collaborates with partners to support the analysis of novel medical interventions against malaria, to improve and accelerate the development of vaccines and other therapeutics, to achieve more significant public health benefits and accelerate malaria elimination.

The goal of her work is to generate evidence for decision-making throughout the process of developing new disease interventions, from preclinical research to clinical testing and implementation in real populations and health systems.

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.

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



Golumbeanu M, Yang G.J, Camponovo F, Stuckey E.M, Hamon N, Mondy M, Rees S, Chitnis N, Cameron E, Penny M.A. Leveraging mathematical models of disease dynamics and machine learning to improve development of novel malaria interventions. Infect Dis Poverty. 2022;11:61. DOI: 10.1186/s40249-022-00981-1

Kelly S.L, Le Rütte E.A, Richter M, Penny M.A, Shattock A.J. COVID-19 vaccine booster strategies in light of emerging viral variants: frequency, timing, and target groups. Infect Dis Ther. 2022;11(5):2045-2061. DOI: 10.1007/s40121-022-00683-z

Le Rütte E.A, Shattock A.J, Chitnis N, Kelly S.L, Penny M.A. Modelling the impact of Omicron and emerging variants on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and public health burden. Commun Med (Lond). 2022;2:93. DOI: 10.1038/s43856-022-00154-z

Masserey T, Lee T, Golumbeanu M, Shattock A.J, Kelly S.L, Hastings I.M, Penny M.A. The influence of biological, epidemiological, and treatment factors on the establishment and spread of drug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Elife. 2022;11:e7763. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.77634

Nekkab N, Penny M.A. Accelerated development of malaria monoclonal antibodies. Cell Rep Med. 2022;3(10):100786. DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100786

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. 2022;38:100535. DOI: 10.1016/j.epidem.2021.100535

Watson O.J, Gao B, Nguyen T.D, Tran T.N, Penny M.A, Smith D.L, Okell L, Aguas R, Boni M.F. Pre-existing partner-drug resistance to artemisinin combination therapies facilitates the emergence and spread of artemisinin resistance: a consensus modelling study. Lancet Microbe. 2022;3(9):e701–e710. DOI: 10.1016/S2666-5247(22)00155-0

Yang G.J, Shang L.Y, Zhou X.N, Lee T.E, Bi B, White M, Smith T.A, Penny M.A. The empirical support for the radical cure strategy for eliminating Plasmodium vivax in China. BMC Med. 2022;20:17. DOI: 10.1186/s12916-021-02214-y

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

Camponovo F, Lee T.E, Russell J.R, Burgert L, Gerardin J, Penny M.A. Mechanistic within-host models of the asexual Plasmodium falciparum infection: a review and analytical assessment. Malar J. 2021;20:309. DOI: 10.1186/s12936-021-03813-z

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

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

Smith T, Maire N, Ross A, Penny M, Chitnis N, Schapira A, Studer A, Genton B, Lengeler C, Tediosi F, de Savigny D, Tanner M. Towards a comprehensive simulation model of malaria epidemiology and control. Parasitology. 2008;135(13):1507-1516