• The University of Western Australia (M503), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

Personal profile


Melissa Penny is a Full Professor and the inaugural Fiona Stanley Chair in Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute. Recently relocating to Australia from Switzerland she currently heads the Intervention and Infectious Disease Modelling research team at Telethon Kids Institute. Until December 2023 she was a Professor at the University of Basel (Switzerland), Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), heading the Disease Modelling Research unit (with over 24 staff and students in 2023).

She has more than 18 years’ experience in developing mathematical and computational models to provide quantitative and model-based evidence to support infectious disease control and elimination decisions, in particular for product development, for policy decisions on new tools, or for intervention mixes in geographic settings.

She leads and has led international multi-institute consortiums to provide evidence to WHO and other stakeholders for decision making on new malaria interventions. This evidence includes the likely public health impact and cost-effectiveness of new interventions, such as the world’s first malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01 (2015, 2018, and 2021), and more recently on novel immune therapies. Her recent research focuses on developing data- and epidemiology-informed mathematical models and associated algorithms to understand pathogen, host and intervention dynamics, with the goal to inform decisions during product development through to implementation and policy recommendations. This includes machine learning applications with complex models for model calibration and for insights into epidemiological and intervention data. The focus of her science application and policy is on malaria, and more recently on SARS-CoV-2 and respiratory viruses. 

She has significant current funding (CHF 2.3-2.5 million per year, 3.9 million AUD) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), and Basel Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH), to develop and apply epidemiological and quantitative approaches for global health impact and for developing vaccines and interventions for vulnerable populations including children experiencing the highest burden of diseases like malaria. She has been a member of multiple WHO technical expert and guidance development groups, and currently contributes impact and economic evidence to WHO-SAGE and MPAG on new malaria vaccines.

Habilitated in 2017 at the University of Basel, Prof. Penny holds a PhD in electrochemistry and modelling of dye-sensitised solar cells, and a BSc (Hons 1st class), with research in mathematics of developmental biology and Turing instabilities, both from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Education/Academic qualification

Science, PD (Habilitation), Habilitation is the highest university degree in many European countries requiring excellence in research, teaching, and further education, and a dissertation. Abbreviated Dr. habil. (Doctor habilitatus), PD (for Privatdozent) the degree conferral is accompanied by a lecture. , University of Basel

Award Date: 1 Dec 2017

Applied Mathematics, PhD, Mathematical Modelling of Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells, Queensland University of Technology

Award Date: 1 Jun 2006

Applied Mathematics, Honours (First Class) in Applied Sciences, Analysis of Reaction-Diffusion and Chemotactic Models on Growing Domains as a Mechanism for Pattern Formation, Queensland University of Technology

1 Jan 20011 Dec 2001

Award Date: 1 Dec 2001

BSc (Bachelor of Science), Queensland University of Technology

1 Feb 19981 Dec 2000

Award Date: 1 Dec 2000


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