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Shannon Takala Harrison, PhD

Academic Title:


Primary Appointment:


Secondary Appointment(s):

Epidemiology & Public Health

Administrative Title:

Associate Director for CARTI Training Tracks

Additional Title:

Head, Genomic Epidemiology Unit, Malaria Research Program, Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health; Track Leader, Molecular Epidemiology Track, Epidemiology and Human Genetics

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-6889


(410) 706-1204

Education and Training

Dr. Takala Harrison is an epidemiologist with expertise in the molecular and genomic epidemiology of malaria. She received her B.S. in Zoology from Brigham Young University in 1999, where she began her malaria research career in the laboratory of Dr. James Jensen, a pioneer in the discovery of techniques to culture Plasmodium falciparum in vitro. After graduation, she completed a two-year research fellowship in the Division of Parasitic Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Epidemiology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in 2006. After completing postdoctoral training in population genetics at Arizona State University, she joined the UMSOM faculty as part of the Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Career Development Program in 2008.


Dr. Takala Harrison is an Associate Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Public Health at University of Maryland School of Medicine who has 19 years of experience conducting multi-disciplinary translational research. She leads the Genomic Epidemiology Unit within the Malaria Research Program in the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, and serves as the Track Leader for the Molecular Epidemiology track within the graduate program in Epidemiology and Human Genetics.

Dr. Takala Harrison has led pioneering molecular and genomic epidemiological studies of malaria, including studies of natural and intervention-induced selection on Plasmodium genetic diversity, the emergence and spread of resistance to antimalarial drugs and vaccines, and parasite population demography to inform malaria elimination strategies. In her earlier work, she documented extreme genetic diversity in candidate malaria vaccine antigens and devised novel molecular epidemiological approaches to demonstrate allele-specific, naturally-acquired and vaccine-induced immunity and the role of specific polymorphisms in immune escape. Upon joining the UMSOM faculty, Dr. Takala Harrison’s focus shifted toward understanding the genetic basis of antimalarial drug resistance. She conducted some of the seminal studies to identify regions of the malaria parasite genome associated with emerging artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia, as well as studies showing the independent emergence and international spread of artemisinin-resistant parasites. Dr. Takala Harrison is currently conducting studies to understand the genetic basis of resistance to artemisinin partner drugs, as well as population genomic studies to understand malaria parasite fine-scale population structure and migration in areas being targeted for malaria elimination. As part of this work, she collaborates closely with investigators at the UMSOM Institute for Genome Sciences and the Center for Geospatial Information Science at the University of Maryland College Park, as well as investigators in malaria endemic areas of Southeast Asia and Africa.

Research/Clinical Keywords

malaria, genomics, molecular epidemiology, population genetics

Highlighted Publications

Shetty AC, Jacob CG, Huang F, Li Y, Agrawa S, Saunders DL, Lon C, Fukuda MM, Ringwald P, Ashley EA, Han KT, Hlaing TM, Nyunt MM, Silva JC, Stewart KE, Plowe CV, O'Connor TD, Takala-Harrison S, Artemisinin Resistance Confirmation, Characterization, and Containment (ARC3), Artemisinin Resistance Containment and Elimination (ARCE), and Tracking Resistance to Artemisinin Collaboration (TRAC). Genomic structure and diversity of Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia reveal recent parasite migration patterns. Nature Communications. 10(1):2665, 2019.

Agrawal S, Moser KA, Morton L, Cummings MP, Parihar A, Dwivedi A, Shetty AC, Drabek EF, Jacob CG, Henrich PP, Parobek CM, Jongsakul K, Huy R, Spring MD, Lanteri CA, Chaorattanakawee S, Lon C, Fukuda MM, Saunders DL, Fidock DA, Lin JT, Juliano JJ, Plowe CV, Silva JC, and Takala-Harrison S. Association of a novel mutation within the Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter with decreased piperaquine sensitivity. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 216(4):468-47, 2017.

Takala-Harrison S, Jacob CG, Arze C, Cummings MP, Silva JC, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Hien TT, Mayxay M, Noedl H, Nosten F, Kyaw MP, Nhien NTT, Imwong M, Bethell D, Se Y, Lon C, Tyner SD, Saunders DL, Ariey F, Mercereau-Puijalon O, Menard D, Newton PN, Khanthavong M, Hongvanthong B, Starzengruber P, Fuehrer HP, Swoboda P, Khan WA, Phyo AP, Nyunt MM, Nyunt MH, Brown TS, Adams M, Pepin CS, Bailey J, Tan JC, Ferdig MT, Clark TG, Miotto O, MacInnis B, Kwiatkowski DP, White NJ, Ringwald P, and Plowe CV. March 2015. Independent emergence of artemisinin resistance mutations among Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 211(5):670-9, 2015.

Takala-Harrison S, Clark TG, Jacob CG, Cummings MP, Miotto O, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Nosten F, Noedl H, Imwong M, Bethell D, Se Y, Lon C, Tyner SD, Saunders DL, Socheat D, Ariey F, Phyo AP, Starzengruber P, Fuehrer HP, Swoboda P, Stepniewska K, Flegg J, Arze C, Cerqueira GC, Silva JC, Ricklefs SM, Porcella SF, Stephens RM, Adams M, Kenefic LJ, Campino S, Auburn S, MacInnis B, Kwiatkowski DP, Su XZ, White NJ, Ringwald P, Plowe CV. Genetic loci associated with delayed clearance of Plasmodium falciparum following artemisinin treatment in Southeast Asia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110(1):240-5, 2013.

Takala SL, Coulibaly D, Thera MA, Batchelor AH, Cummings MP, Escalante AA, Ouattara A, Traore K, Niangaly A, Djimde AA, Doumbo OK, and Plowe CV. Extreme polymorphism in a vaccine antigen and risk of clinical malaria: implications for vaccine development. Science Translational Medicine. 1(2):2ra5, 2009.

Takala SL, Coulibaly D, Thera MA, Dicko A, Smith DL, Guindo AB, Kone AK, Traore K, Ouattara A, Djimde A, Sehdev P, Lyke K, Diallo DA, Doumbo OK, and Plowe CV. Dynamics of polymorphism in a malaria vaccine antigen at a vaccine-testing site in Mali. PLoS Medicine. 4(3):e93, 2007.