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Muneer Abbas

Associate Professor of Microbiology

  • Microbiology
  • College of Medicine
  • Research Core Investigator
    Cancer Center
  • Bioresitory Director
    Center For Sickle Cell Disease


Dr. Abbas is an associate professor in the microbiology department and a member of the Molecular Genetics Research Group at Howard University's Cancer Center/National Human Genome Center (NHGC). His expertise in DNA analyses and HLA genotyping plays a crucial role in NHGC's ongoing research program, particularly in the field of cancer research and addressing health disparities. Additionally, Dr. Abbas serves as an Associate Professor of Microbiology in the College of Medicine, having obtained his Ph.D. from Howard University (HU).

The primary focus of Dr. Abbas's research revolves around investigating polymorphisms in genes associated with innate and acquired immune responses, with a specific emphasis on their relevance to health disparities. His research stems from the understanding that the host immune system's primary function is to adapt to environmental pathogens, leading to the emergence of genomic polymorphisms that confer protection against these pathogens. Dr. Abbas's interests in immunogenetics also extend to immunoreactive cancers. As an influential figure in the HU-NHGC, he currently oversees the evaluation and cataloging of cancer specimens displaying lymphocyte infiltration, with the ultimate goal of analyzing the expression profiles of these cancers and identifying neo-antigens presented by such tumors.

Furthermore, Dr. Abbas is an investigator and member of the Quantum Biology Lab, led by Dr. Philip Kurian, where he has secured grants to study quantum phenomena in biological systems. He also serves as the supervisor of the Howard University-National Human Genome Center (HU-NHGC) sequencing core and holds the position of Molecular Genetics Director. Additionally, he acts as the Director of the NHGC/HU Sickle Cell Disease Center Biorepository, overseeing the collection, handling, processing, and storage of valuable clinical and environmental samples obtained through specific projects. These collective efforts aim to establish a centralized Biorepository infrastructure at HU, facilitating the rapid translation of basic research findings into effective treatments and cures.

Dr. Abbas has also fostered collaborations to explore genetic and epigenetic variations in neurotransmitter receptor genes and their associations with certain behaviors such as addiction and exposure to violence. This collaborative work has led to a pilot grant investigating genetic variations in the human serotonin receptor gene (5-HT7) and its potential connection to immune response and HIV/AIDS. Currently, Dr. Abbas serves as a co-investigator on an R01 grant that focuses on studying violence exposure, immune functions, and HIV/AIDS risks in African Americans. The primary objective of this grant is to identify subgroups of African American young adults who may be at a higher risk of HIV exposure, thereby enabling targeted prevention programs.

Education & Expertise



Howard University


Yarmouk University


Yarmouk University


Research Training, Teaching Immunology, Biobanking, Biorepository



2017-present Focused review sessions for Medical student, College of Medicine 2015-present Molecules and Cell II for Medical Students, College of Medicine. 2015-present 231-303. Biology of Pathogen II, Graduate Students, College of 2013-present 231-418.

2017-present   Focused review sessions for Medical student, College of Medicine2015-present   Molecules and Cell II for Medical Students, College of Medicine.2015-present   231-303. Biology of Pathogen II, Graduate Students, College of2013-present   231-418. Special topics in Microbiology, Graduate Students,                        College of Medicine.2013-present   231-228. Research in Microbiology, Graduate Students, College of                        Medicine.                        Medicine.2010-present   231-307. Virology, Graduate Students, College of Medicine.2010-present   231-300. Biology of Pathogens I, Graduate Students, College of                        Medicine.2009-present   16172-DENT. Dental Microbiology, College of Dentistry.2009-present   Facilitator, LCME for Medical students’ small groups forImmunology, and Bacterial and viral infections, Howard University College of Medicine2009-present   231-304. Cell and Molecular Immunology, Graduate Students,                        College of Medicine.2012-2014       85762-PHSC.  Microbiology for Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy(course coordinator in 2014, course discontinued)

INDI 102, Unit II Molecules and Cells,

After the completion of the unit, students should be able to describe and discuss the topics in the respective area listed below:


Immune System

  1. Development of cells of the adaptive immune response, including positive and negative selection during immune development
  2. Structure, production, and function
  1. granulocytes, natural killer cells, macrophages, mast cells, dendritic cells, cell receptors (eg, complement receptors and toll-like receptors), cytokines, chemokines
  2. T lymphocytes, including T-lymphocyte receptors, accessory molecules (eg, CD3, CD4, CD8, B7), cell activation and proliferation, cytotoxic T lymphocytes, and memory T lymphocytes
  3. B lymphocytes and plasma cells, including B-lymphocyte receptors, immunoglobulins, cell activation and proliferation, including development of antibodies and memory B lymphocytes
  4. host defense mechanisms, host barriers to infection, mucosal immunity (eg, gut- associated lymphoid tissue and bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue), anatomical locations of T and B lymphocytes
  1. Cellular basis of the immune response and immunologic mediators
  1. antigen processing and presentation in the context of MHC I and MHC II molecules (eg, TAP, beta-2 microglobulin), intracellular pathways, mechanisms by which MHC is expressed on the surface; including distribution of MHC I and MHC II on different cells, mechanisms of MHC I and MHC II deficiencies, and the genetics of MHC
  2. regulation of the adaptive immune response (eg, regulatory T lymphocytes, termination of immune response, and B-T lymphocyte interactions)

  3. activation, function, and molecular biology of complement (eg, anaphylatoxins) functional and molecular biology of cytokines (eg, IL 1-15)
  1. Basis of immunologic diagnostics (eg, antigen-antibody reactions used for diagnostic purposes, ELISA, immunoblotting, antigen-antibody changes over time, ABO typing)
  2. Principles of immunologic protection
  3. Disorders associated with immunodeficiency
  1. deficiency primarily of humoral immunity: common variable immunodeficiency; hyper IgM syndrome; hypogammaglobulinemia/agammaglobulinemia, X-linked (Bruton); selective immunodeficiency (eg, IgA, IgM, IgE)
  2. deficiency/dysfunction primarily of cell-mediated immunity: adenosine deaminase deficiency; DiGeorge syndrome; severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID); Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome; granulomatosis; allergic reactions (insect bites)
  3. complement deficiency: alternative pathway component deficiency (C2, C3b, C3bB, C36B6); classical pathway component deficiency (C1q, C1r, C1-C5); terminal component deficiency (C5b-C9; terminal complement complex); C1 esterase inhibitor deficiency, hereditary angioedema; mannose-binding lectin (MBL) deficiency; membrane attack complex deficiency
  4. deficiency of phagocytic cells and natural killer cells: Chediak-Higashi disease; chronic granulomatous disease and other disorders of phagocytosis; leukocyte adhesion deficiency
  1. Immunologically mediated disorders

  1. hypersensitivity reactions: type 1, 2, 3, including anaphylaxis; type 4; drug reactions; serum sickness


Microbial Biology


  1. Bacterial identification and classification, including principles, microorganism identification, and non-immunologic laboratory diagnosis
  2. Bacterial structure (eg, cell walls, composition, appendages, virulence factors, extracellular products, toxins, mechanism of action of toxins)
  3. Bacterial processes, replication, and genetics (eg, metabolism, growth, and regulation)
  4. Antibacterial agents (eg, mechanisms of action on organism, toxicity to humans, and mechanisms of resistance)
  5. The role of the Gut Microbiome (GM) in health & diseases.
    1. Learn about different levels of GM modulation of the immune system.
    2. Learn mechanisms by which the GM affects local and systemic immunity.
    3. Learn about the potential effect of GM modulation on health.




  1. Viral identification and classification, including principles, microorganism identification, and non-immunologic laboratory diagnosis
  2. Viral structure (eg, physical and chemical properties, virulence factors)

  3. Viral processes, replication, and genetics (eg, life cycles, location of virus in latent infection)
  4. Oncogenesis,
  5. Antiviral agents (eg, mechanisms of action on virus, toxicity to humans, and mechanisms of resistance)
  6. Understand the principles of viral genetics
  7. How to use temperature-induced mutation to understand viral genetics
  8. To understand the concepts of viral genetics
  9. History of oncolytic viral studies
  10. List of the potential OVs
  11. Mechanisms of OVs in anti-Cancer
  12. An FDA approved oncolytic virus: IMLYGICTM (T-VEC/Talimogene Laherparepvec)
  13. Hurdles of development of OVs
  14. Describe the molecular mechanism of oncogenic transformation by DNA oncogenic viruses.
  15. Identify human oncogenic retrovirus and describe its mechanism of tumor induction
  16. Describe the mechanism of hepatocellular carcinoma development associated with HCV infection.
  17. Define the concept of gene therapy
  18. Identify viral vectors for gene therapy
  19. Describe production of AAV vectors: Glybera and Luxturna
  20. Explain how adeno-virus based gene therapy for OTC deficiency changed regulation of gene therapy trials
  21. Describe retroviral vector production for CAR-T Immunotherapy and identify Kymrah and Yescarta



Human Genetics

  1. Principles of pedigree analysis
inheritance patterns
occurrence and recurrence risk determination,
  2. Population genetics: Hardy-Weinberg law, founder effects, mutation-selection equilibrium,
  3. Principles of gene therapy,
  4. Genetic testing and counseling,
  5. Genetic mechanisms (eg, penetrance, genetic heterogeneity)

MICR 228, Research in Microbiology

MICR 600, Dissertation Research

MICR 418, Special Topics

Biology of Pathogens I

Virology, Graduate Students

Dental Microbiology

Cell and Molecular Immunology, Graduate Students




Immunogenetics in Health And Disease



CO-PI, RCMI/NIH :"Fast Optical Detection and Discrimination of Viral Pathogens" (On-Going). (March 2022 -Present). We constructed a precise model of the tryptophan chromophore network present in the external structures of SARS-CoV-2, which encompassed the spike trimer, membrane, and nucleocapsid protein structures sourced from the Protein Data Bank. Our computational analysis revealed that the UV superradiant enhancement of a single virion surpassed the spontaneous emission rate of a single tryptophan by over a thousand-fold. Notably, the optical response of SARS-CoV-2 differed from that of simpler viruses such as rhinoviruses and enteroviruses. To experimentally verify the collective optical behavior and downstream coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) signatures, we intend to explore the application of femtosecond adaptive spectroscopic techniques with enhanced resolution, known as FASTER CARS. Over the past two decades, this approach has shown promise in investigating vibrational features in Raman scattering at the individual virion level.

CO-PI, NSF 19-599, QLCI - CG: Conceptualizing a Quantum Information Bioscience Institute for Quantum Sensing and Simulations in Novel Hybrid Architectures, $103,701.

Investigator, SR01MD005851-02 (Sdaatmand, Frough, PI), 09/01/2015- 02/15/2017   $60,000, Gender stratification of behavioral and biological pathways associated with violence exposure, depression, immune function, and risks to HIV/AIDS. The primary goal of this trans-disciplinary study of African American young adults is to develop a predictive model to identify gender differences which, based on their exposure to urban violence, may be at greater risk for HIV/AIDS and should be targeted for existing prevention programs.

Principal Investigator, Howard University College of Medicine Bridge Funds and Pilot Award Program, 11/23/2015-11/21/2016, $25,000. “Association of Genetic Variation in Serotonin Receptor 5HT2A with Markers of Innate and Adaptive Immunity” The goal of this research project is to examine the hypothesis that innate and specific immune markers are associated with genetic polymorphism in Serotonin receptor 5-HT2A expressed on immune cells. This will help to identify African Americans that are at risk for inflammatory diseases related to environmental stressors and increase the risk of health disparities.

Co-Investigator/ Director of Biorepository Core. P50HL118006 (Robert Taylor PI) 7/1/2014-present, NIH/P50 Center for Hemoglobin Research in Minorities (CHaRM). The aim of this funding is to establish a centralized Biorepository infrastructure at the Sickle Cell Center. This will speed the translation of basic research to treatments and cures.

Principal investigator, a Pilot project awarded from 5R24DA021470-04 (P.I. Kathy Sanders-Phillips) NIH/NIDA, 8/1/20012-5/1/2013, $14,431.45. Research Training in the prevention of drug abuse &AIDS in communities of color. Pilot Project Title: Genetic Variation in the Human Serotonin Receptor Gene (5- HT7) and Its Association with Immune Response and HIV/AIDS. This pilot study examined potential relationships between serotonin receptors and immune function utilizing data that has been collected in a study titled “Biological and Social Correlates of Drug Use in African American Emerging Adults.” 

Co-investigator, 1R01MD005851-01A1(P.I. Forough Sadaatmand), 7/12/2012-1/31/2017, $359,440.00, NIH/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Grant Title: Violence exposure, immune functions &HIV/AIDS risks in African Americans. The primary goal of this study is to identify subgroups of African American young adults who may be at greater risk for exposure to HIV and should be targeted for prevention programs.

Director of the NHGC, HU Sickle Cell Disease Center, and the RCMI Biorepositories. The goal of this research is to coordinate the collection, handling, processing, and bio-banking of valuable clinical and environmental samples collected under specific projects.

Investigator, W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory at Howard University. My role is to supervise and assist in ancient DNA extraction and genotyping from over 400 years of African American bone collections. This will help trace recent historical events by integrating ancient genomics and modern genomics.

Group Information

Related Articles

Selected Articles

Qasem, M., Ricks-Santi, L., Naab, T., Rajak, F., BEYENE, D., Abbas, M., Kassim, K., Copeland,

R., Kanaan, Y. (2022). Inverse Correlation of KISS1 and KISS1R Expression in Triplenegative

Breast Carcinomas from African American Women. Cancer Genomics Proteomics,


Saadatmand, F., Abbas, M., Apprey, V., Krishma, T., Kwabi-Addo, B. (2022). Sex differences in

saliva-based DNA methylation changes and environmental stressor in young African

American adults. Full text links full text provider logo Actions Share Page navigation Title

& authors Abstract Conflict of interest statement Figures Similar articles

References Publication types MeSH terms Substances Related information

Grant support LinkOut - more resources PLoS One, 17(9), 1-15.

Aiello, C., Abendroth, J., Abbas, M., Afanasev, A., Agarwal, S., Banerjee, A., Beratan, D., Belling,

J., Kurian, P., .., ...., Wang, Q. (2022). A Chirality-Based Quantum Leap. ACS Nano.

Abbas, M., Kurian, P. (2022). Quantum probes in cancer research. Nature Reviews Cancer.

Brim, H., Taylor, J., Abbas, M., Vilmenay, K., Song-Naba, W., Daremipouran, M., Varma, S., Lee, E.,

Pace, B., Gupta, K., Nekhai, S., O'Neil, P., Ashktorab, H. (2021). The gut microbiome in sickle

cell disease: Characterization and potential implications. Plos One, 16(8).

Brim, H., Taylor, J., Abbas, M., Vilmenay, K., Daremipouran, M., Varma, S., Lee, E., Pace, B.,

Song-Naba, W. L., Gupta, K., Nekhai, S., Ashktorab, H. (2021). The gut microbiome in sickle cell

disease: Characterization and potential implications. PLOS ONE.

Retland, N., Aloufi, A., Alyahyawi, A., Shakoori, A., Aubee, J., Thompson, K., Abbas, M. (2020).

The role of human 5-HTR2A in miRNA expression in the triple negative breast cancer cell line.

(16_Supplemen ed., vol. 80, pp. 2534).


Brim, Afsari, A., Atefi, N., Retland, N., Abbas, M., Naab, T., Shokrani, B., Laiyemo, A., Lee, E.,

Nouraie, S., Ashktorab, H. (2018). Abstract 5056: HPV, HIV and male gender as major risk factors

for anal neoplastic transformation in African Americans (13 Supplement ed., vol. Yes, pp. 5056).

Cancer Research/ Tumor Biology.

Paller, C., Zhou, X., Heath, E., Taplin, M., Mayer, T., Stein, M., Bubley, G., Pili, R., Hudson,


Kakarla, R., Abbas, M., Andres, N., Dowling, D., King, S., Burns, A., Wangler, W., Drake, C.,

Antonarakis, E., Eisenberger, M., Denmeade, S., Rudek, M., Rosner, G., Carducci, M. (2018).

Muscadine grape skin extract (MPX) in men with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: a

randomized, multicenter, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Clinical Cancer Research, 24(2),


Brim, H., Yooseph, S., Lee, E., Sherif, Z., Abbas, M., Layemo, A., Varma, S., Torralba, M., Dowd,

S., Nelson, K., Pathmasiri, W., Sumner, S., de Vos, W., Liang, Q., YU, J., Zoetendal, E.,

Ashktorab, H. (2017). A Microbiomic Analysis in African Americans with Colonic Lesions Reveals

Streptococcus sp.VT162 as a Marker of Neoplastic Transformation. Genes, 8(11), Marshall Islands.

Ricks-Santi, L., McDonald, T., Gold, B., Dean, M., Thompson, N., Abbas, M., Wilson, B., Kanaan, Y.,

Naab, T., Dunston, G. (2017). Next Generation Sequencing Reveals High Prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2

Variants of Unknown Significance in Early-Onset Breast Cancer in African American Women. Ethnicity

and Disease, 27(2), 169-178.

Paller, C., Taplin, M., Stein, M., Bubley, G., Pili, R., Mayer, T., Zhou, C., Hudson, T., Abbas,

M., Andres, N., Dowling, D., King, S., Drake, C., Antonarakis, E., Eisenberger, M., Denmeade, S.,

Rudek, M., Carducci, M. (2017). A phase II study of muscadine grape skin extract in men with

biochemically recurrent prostate cancer. (Award ed., vol. Funded, pp. 284-284). Journal of Clinical


Swanson, G., Miller, S., Alyahyawi, A., Wilson, B., Sadaatmand, F., Lee, C., Dunston, G., Abbas,

M. (2017). Genetic polymorphisms in the serotonin receptor 7 (HTR7) gene are associated with

cortisol levels in African American young adults. f1000 Research, 1-12.

Wilson, B., Ettienne, E., Apprey, V., Ofeogbu, A., Abbas, M., Dunston, G., Sadaatmand, F. (2017).

Opioid Metabolizing Enzyme Allele Frequencies and Drug Use in a Cohort of African American Young

Adults. ARC Journal of Addiction, 2(2), 4-9.

Abbas, M., Berka, N., Khraiwesh, M., Ramadan, A., Apprey, V., Furbert-Harris, P., Quinn, T.,

rphisms of TLR4 and MICA are Associated

ith Severity of Trachoma Disease in Tanzania. Autoimmune Infect Dis, 2(3), 1-14.