Huib Ovaa Group

Huib Ovaa (In Memoriam)

Oncode Investigator at LUMC

On the 19th of May 2020, our dear colleague Professor Dr. Huib Ovaa passed away from prostate cancer. Please read the In Memoriam here:

My Research

Huib Ovaa was group leader at Leiden University Medical Center (NL). He studied chemistry at Leiden University where he also obtained his PhD degree in organic synthesis in 2001 under the supervision of the late J.H. van Boom. He then moved to Harvard Medical School to work in the field of proteolysis and antigen presentation and joined the lab of Hidde Ploegh as a postdoctoral fellow. Here, he worked on the synthesis of Ub-based reagents using intein chemistry. Using these reagents, he co-discovered OTU proteases as a new family of DUBs.

After his postdoc he remained at Harvard Medical School for another year as an instructor in pathology before starting his own chemical biology lab at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam in 2004. This lab was at the basis of many ubiquitin chemistries used today in the construction of ubiquitin chains and reagents, proteasome technologies and together with Ton Schumacher at the basis of MHC-exchange technology. In 2010 he cofounded the spinoff UbiQ Bio B.V. In July 2016 the Ovaa lab moved to Leiden University Medical Center where his lab is now part of the new department of Cell and Chemical Biology.


  • 2013: VICI grant (NWO, Netherlands Organization for scientific research)
  • 2011: ERC consolidator grant
  • 2011:KNCV gold medal (yearly awarded to the best Dutch chemist under 40) 2010:Amsterdam Inventor Award
  • 2009: Award Dutch society for molecular biology and biochemistry (NVBMB)
  • 2008: Dana Farber Cancer Institute career development award
  • 2005:VIDI grant (NWO)
  • 2003: VENI grant (NWO)
  • 2003: Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center SPORE career development award
  • 2002: C. J. Kok prize, Leiden University, the best PhD thesis
  • 2001: TALENT-fellowship (NWO)
  • 2001: PhD cum laude (in Netherlands top 5%)
  • 1998: SIR Stipend (NWO)

Key Publications

  1. Albers, H. M., Dong, A., van Meeteren, L. A., Egan, D. A., Sunkara, M., van Tilburg, E. W., ... & Moolenaar, W. H. (2010). Boronic acid-based inhibitor of autotaxin reveals rapid turnover of LPA in the circulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(16), 7257-7262.
  2. Ekkebus, R., van Kasteren, S. I., Kulathu, Y., Scholten, A., Berlin, I., Geurink, P. P., ... & Komander, D. (2013). On terminal alkynes that can react with active-site cysteine nucleophiles in proteases. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135(8), 2867-2870.
  3. El Oualid, F., Merkx, R., Ekkebus, R., Hameed, D. S., Smit, J. J., de Jong, A., ... & Ovaa, H. (2010). Chemical synthesis of ubiquitin, ubiquitin‐based probes, and diubiquitin. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49(52), 10149-10153.
  4. Flierman, D., Ekkebus, R., Geurink, P. P., Mevissen, T. E., Hospenthal, M. K., Komander, D., & Ovaa, H. (2016). Non-hydrolyzable diubiquitin probes reveal linkage-specific reactivity of deubiquitylating enzymes mediated by S2 pockets. Cell chemical biology, 23(4), 472-482.
  5. Mulder, M. P., Witting, K., Berlin, I., Pruneda, J. N., Wu, K. P., Chang, J. G., ... & Schulman, B. A. (2016). A cascading activity-based probe sequentially targets E1–E2–E3 ubiquitin enzymes. Nature chemical biology, 12(7), 523.
Contact Information
Huib Ovaa (In Memoriam)

Huib Ovaa (In Memoriam)

Oncode Investigator

Oncode Investigator

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