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Published: 2023-02-15 Updated: 2023-02-17, 10:14

Designs small molecules to inhibit infection by RNA-viruses

NEWS For the Ghanaian synthetic chemist Samuel Agyei Nyantakyi, the Excellence by Choice fellowship at Umeå University is his second postdoctoral position after a fellowship at KI. According to him, the most rewarding with being a molecule maker is when a molecule with potential goes to the clinic, i.e., when ‘from bench to bedside’ is successfully executed.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Some of the compounds are not as easy to synthesize as they look on paper.

Samuel Agyei Nyantakyi started his fellowship in January at the Department of Chemistry in professor Fredrik Almqvist’s group. Ultimately, thanks to the multidisciplinary nature of the research topic, he will also spend time in the labs of the professors Jörgen Johansson (Molecular Biology) and Niklas Arnberg (Clinical Microbiology). Samuel has moved to Umeå from Stockholm with his wife and two small kids.

What is your academic background?

“I graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana in June 2010. I have been a registered member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana since February 2012. I have a Master’s degree in Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Nottingham. In addition, a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the National University of Singapore and finally one postdoctoral experience from the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet that ended in December 2022.”

How did you end up in Northern Sweden and at Umeå University?

“I chose Umeå University for two main reasons. The first was to have continuity in Sweden after my experience in Stockholm, especially because my family loved living in Sweden. Secondly, the commitment to quality research by the University as presented through the Excellence of Choice programme and indeed other postdoctoral opportunities, in addition to the multicultural environment, appealed very much to me as an early career researcher.”

Can you note any differences from KI in Stockholm?

“Obviously, the major difference will be the land size – KI may relatively have the larger land size; but of course, the quality of research conducted in both KI and Umeå is very much indistinguishable.”

What is your current research focusing on?

“In my current research we are designing and synthesizing small molecules to inhibit infection by RNA-viruses. Specifically, our overarching aim is to identify and ultimately develop potential compounds that can stymie the infection potential of single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) viruses, to be useful in the clinic against these emerging and re-emerging microbes that significantly affect us. It forms part of the measures that characterize emergency preparedness towards future pandemics.”

What is challenging and rewarding respectively with being a researcher?

“My most challenging experience was when I first started as a synthetic chemist. My master’s program had only provided me just three months of research experience, so it was very tough starting out in a new environment where I was expected to immediately prove myself in the lab. In addition, it becomes frustrating for you as a synthetic chemist when you design analogues but find out in the lab that some of the compounds are not as easy to synthesize as they look on paper.”

“ The most rewarding, of course, is when all the hard work culminates into a manuscript being accepted for publication, and ultimately when a molecule with potential goes to the clinic, i.e., when ‘from bench to bedside’ is successfully executed.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“Either in a senior role in industry or an assistant professor in academia.”

What are your first impressions of Sweden?

“My first impressions of Sweden and Stockholm were: a very organized system, cold weather, and a multicultural society. That of Umeå and, by extension, Umeå University were: lots of snow, also a multicultural society, very organized, and a relatively quiet and smaller city where most of everything are in proximity.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“Reading and writing, gaming, and watching football.”

Short facts about Samuel Agyei Nyantakyi :

Coming from: Ghana
Me in three words: Meticulous, Diligent, Organized
Is exciting with my research subject: The prospect of solving a real problem in the clinic
Interests: Research, Family time, Music, Football, Travelling
Reading: Christian literature, Chemistry, Molecular Biology, History, Current affairs
Listening to: Christian music, African highlife, Classicals and Choral music, Economic and Sports news
Three things I like with Umeå: Quiet, Safe, Proximity to essential amenities
Unexpected talent: I am good at singing
Miss from home: Church fellowship
The first Swedish word I learnt: “Hejsan”
Wanted to become when I was a child: Medical Doctor
Favourite holiday spot: Maldives
Looking forward to: Touring Europe

For more information, please contact:

Samuel Nyantakyi
Postdoctoral position