Dylan Pillai

Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and MIID

Cumming School of Medicine; University of Calgary

Faculty Member

Host-Parasite Interactions

BS Honors - Biology (Genetics)

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA, 1994


University of Toronto, 2000


University of Toronto, 2002

Postgraduate training - Infectious Diseases

University of California San Francisco, 2007

Postgraduate training - Medical Microbiology

University of Toronto, 2008

Contact information


MDSC 611, Medical Microbiology, Lecturer, "Eukaryotic Pathogens - Drug Treatment and Resistance"

VetMed 690, Integrated Parasitology, Lecturer, “Malaria I & II



Dr. Pillai is Professor and Head of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, with adjunct appointments in Medicine and Microbiology (MIID) at the University of Calgary. He practices in both Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. His research interests comprise (i) translational studies evaluating cost-effectiveness and outcomes of new diagnostic tests; (ii) developing point-of-care and near-patient diagnostic technology for application in resource-limited settings internationally and (iii) understanding the pathogenesis of infectious diseases using 'omics' approaches. He has published over 130 peer-reviewed articles, obtained over $5 million in direct peer-reviewed funding as a principal investigator and over $10 million in overall funding over the last 10 years from Tri-Council and other sources, and trained over 30 undergraduate, graduate (MSc/PhD), clinical trainees, and post-doctoral scientists in his laboratory. He was recently named 2021 Peak Scholar at the University of Calgary and Fellows of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) in 2023 . He has served on Editorial Boards of leading journals of IDSA and American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and several international grant review panels. Technology developed in his laboratory has resulted in local commercialization activity including a start-up company in Calgary.


  1. Pillai DR, Labbe AC, Vanisaveth V, Hongvangthong B, Phompida S, Boutha N, Zhong K, Kain KC. Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Lao PDR: Chloroquine treatment outcome and predictive value of molecular markers. J Infect Dis. 183(5):789-95, 2001.
  • This study was the first clinical efficacy trial on antimalarial resistance conducted in Laos in the modern era. Prior to the study, chloroquine was used as first line therapy. However, our results showed 46% treatment failure with this drug prompting that country to change its treatment policy. We were also one of the first groups to evaluate the role of molecular markers in predicting chloroquine treatment outcome in a field study. My role was central to the planning, coordination, execution, and completion of the project together with Laotian counterparts. This line of inquiry has set the stage for studies I conduct today, some 20 years later.
  1. Shahinas D, Liang M, Datti A, Pillai DR. A repurposing strategy identifies novel synergistic inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum heat shock protein 90. J Med Chem. 2010 May 13;53(9):3552-7
  • In this novel approach which repurposes old drugs, we used robotic platforms to screen large libraries of chemical compounds (approximately 4000) and identified three novel antimalarial compounds that target heat shock protein 90. One of the compounds, called Harmine, has been shown to synergize with artemisinin and maybe a useful partner drug. Studies with harmine led to further peer-reviewed funding, other major peer-reviewed publications, and new collaborations.
  1. Ménard D, Khim N, Beghain J, Adegnika AA, Shafiul-Alam M, Amodu O, Rahim-Awab G, Barnadas C, Berry A, Boum Y, Bustos MD, Cao J, Chen JH, Collet L, Cui L, Thakur GD, Dieye A, Djallé D, Dorkenoo MA, Eboumbou-Moukoko CE, Espino FE, Fandeur T, Ferreira-da-Cruz MF, Fola AA, Fuehrer HP, Hassan AM, Herrera S, Hongvanthong B, Houzé S, Ibrahim ML, Jahirul-Karim M, Jiang L, Kano S, Ali-Khan W, Khanthavong M, Kremsner PG, Lacerda M, Leang R, Leelawong M, Li M, Lin K, Mazarati JB, Ménard S, Morlais I, Muhindo-Mavoko H, Musset L, Na-Bangchang K, Nambozi M, Niaré K, Noedl H, Ouédraogo JB, Pillai DR et al KARMA consortium. A Worldwide Map of Plasmodium falciparum K13-Propeller Polymorphism. New Eng J Med, 2016 Jun 23;374(25):2453-64.
  • Our contribution to this consortium (“KARMA”) led by the Pasteur Institute was critical. Our work initially showed that artemisinin resistance had not spread west to Bangladesh from Cambodia. Strains from our study were used as part of this consortium to show the global distribution of artemisinin resistance. We ultimately demonstrate in this work published in the New England Journal of Medicine that artemisinin resistance had not spread to Africa which would be considered a public health disaster. Ongoing work with our collaborators in Ethiopia is establishing whether artemisinin resistance could occur in Africa also.
  1. Genetu Bayih A, Debnath A, Mitre E, Huston CD, Laleu B, Leroy D, Blasco B, Campo B, Wells TNC, Willis PA, Sjö P, Van Voorhis WC, Pillai DR. Susceptibility Testing of Medically Important Parasites. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2017 Jul;30(3):647-669. 

    During my sabbatical in 2015, I wrote this review and was successful in assembling the world’s leading experts on drug discovery related to neglected tropical diseases. The review will set the benchmark on methods to test drug susceptibility and identify limitations which need to be overcome in order to identify novel compounds for treatment.
  2. Girma S, Cheaveau J, Mohon AN, Marasinghe D, Legese R, Balasingam N, Abera A, Feleke SM, Golassa L, Pillai DR. Prevalence and Epidemiological Characteristics of Asymptomatic Malaria Based on Ultrasensitive Diagnostics: A Cross-sectional Study. Clin Infect Dis. 2019 Aug 30;69(6):1003-1010.
  • A very important diagnostic study showing point of care DNA based malaria tests called LAMP radically alter our perceptions about the prevalence of malaria and its impact on patients. This in turn has implications for treatment and public health interventions.