Research in Focus: Breaking Barriers in Antimicrobial Discovery

As part of #BiofilmWeek, we’re highlighting interesting and exciting biofilm research from across our network and partner research institutions by early career researchers and PhD students.

We interviewed Abiola Isawumi, a Research Fellow, Principal Investigator and AMR Leader at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the University of Ghana. 

How does your work link to biofilms and AMR?

Antimicrobial resistance is a global crisis and it is becoming increasingly a burden in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana. The majority of studies in Ghana have focused on clinically initiated resistance with little attention on AMR opportunistic bacteria emerging from the environments, such as the Intensive Care Units. Our work at WACCBIP is redefining approaches to bridge this gap and also using technology to better understand AMR phenotypes from the environment, particularly biofilms.

Browsing for Biofilm Locations
Group photo from the Antimicrobial Discovery and Biobanking workshop in October 2023, organised by NBIC and WACCBIP.

What problems do you hope to address through your work?

Our AMR studies are primarily providing insights into a better understanding of AMR mechanisms. In this respect, we are leveraging phenotypic algorithms and molecular tools for developing diverse assays to potentiate antibiotic effectiveness, inform treatment strategies, and understand opportunistic pathogen antibiotic-evasion pathways.

Are there any highlights/discoveries from your work you can tell us about?

We have shown that ‘superbugs’ are resident on fomites and are circulating in selected Ghanaian hospitals. We have built a biobank of MDR bacterial culture libraries with more than 7,000 isolates. These bacteria are very virulent and pathogenic, and we have been able to identify some of their AMR mechanisms both phenotypically and molecularly. Most of these isolates are still being characterised.

Have you undertaken any public engagement and outreach activities?

In 2019 we held a meeting to create awareness surrounding the emergence of ‘superbugs’ from Ghanaian hospitals. The meeting was supported by a grant from The Company of Biologists, UK, and in attendance were stakeholders from the health sector, including the Ghana Health Service, biomedical researchers, clinicians, healthcare workers, pharmacists and members of the press. 

Please tell us about your recent collaboration with NBIC, and what were the outcomes?

The Antimicrobial Discovery and Biobanking collaborative workshop, between NBIC and WACCBIP, took place at the University of Ghana in October 2023. The workshop functioned as a vibrant epicentre for faculty, researchers, and industry leaders from both countries converging to exchange knowledge and discern areas of synergy in biofilm-related research. The central thematic focus of the event revolved around the critical domains of antimicrobial discovery and biobanking, providing an invaluable platform for the participating institutions to showcase their competencies in terms of infrastructure, technological resources, and expertise. The workshop was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Global Partnering Award. More information on this meeting can be found on the WACCBIP website. 

This remarkable partnership holds the promise of a lasting and enduring collaboration, underpinned by a shared vision and mission to propel the fields of antimicrobial discovery and biobanking forward. The unwavering commitment to sustained cooperation is poised to yield bountiful results, propelling the progress and development of these pivotal realms of research in the foreseeable future.



SUPERBUGS: Evolving Enemies from Ghanaian Hospitals

Monitoring antimicrobial resistance in Ghana: a focus on the hospital environment

Find out more

If you are interested in learning more about this work and would like to connect with Abiola please contact NBIC at


Abiola Isawumi – Research Fellow, Principal Investigator and AMR Leader at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the University of Ghana. 

NBIC Jasmine