Universiteit Leiden

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Huib Ovaa

Professor of Chemical biology of post-translational protein modification

Prof.dr. H. Ovaa
+31 71 526 8721

Huib Ovaa is a professor of chemical biology.

More information about Huib Ovaa

See also

Professional activities

Membership of professional bodies/learned societies
American Chemical Society since 1996
Koninklijke Nederlandse Chemische Vereniging KNCV
Member Cost Network “proteostasis”
Member Cost Network “chemprobes”
Member Cost Network “transautophagy”

Membership of internal committees
Manager peptide synthesis facility

Membership of review/grant committees
Member committee VIDI-CW 2013, 2014, 2015
NWO chemical sciences
Member panel TOP Echo competition. NOW chemical sciences.
Backer committee, awards yearly prize for best organic chemistry thesis in the Netherlands (2005-2013 head from 2009-2013).

NWO chemical sciences, protein chemistry study section (ended as head in 2010).
Theme leader Netherlands Proteomics Centre (NPC).
MC member COST network “proteostasis”

Educational activities
Course chemical biology of post-translational modifications, Leiden University
Practical course peptide chemistry for European Marie Curie Training Network
EMBO course leader ubiquitin workshop Sardinia, Italy
FOS course 2017, Leiden University

Advisory boards
Member BAC committee for the appointment of a full professor position selection committee Junior PI, Leiden University
Advisor for several tenure decisions

Additional education
Bio-business masterclass, Nijenrode Business University (2010).

Editorial boards
Associate Editor Frontiers in Chemical Biology
Editorial Board Member Cell Chemical Biology
Member editorial advisory board Advanced Science

Consortia Memberships
Member European Lead Factory
Member Cancer Research UK-Forma therapeutics drug discovery alliance (ended 2016)
Member CDDI, Leiden University-NKI-Pivot Park Oss, cancer drug discovery initiative
Member Dutch Gravitation Programme “Institute for Chemical Immunology”.

Advisory boards and consultancy
2010 Advisor Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Belgium

2010 UbiqBio B.V. biotech startup building on technologies

Chemical biology

In July 2016 the Ovaa lab relocated to Leiden University Medical Center, where his lab together with the lab of Jacques Neefjes has initiated the new section Chemical Immunology within the department of Cell and Chemical Biology. This section is equipped with a screening center and protein production unit is part of a new inter-faculty multidisciplinary research institute with a focus on chemical biology in which Leiden University Medical Center and Leiden Institute of Chemistry participate.

His lab aims at the development of tools to profile cellular enzymatic activities  associated primarily with ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like modification. In addition, we study proteasome activity and antigen production and antigen presentation.

Research is centered on one central theme: chemical biology of ubiquitylation, protein degradation and antigen presentation, and currently divided into three main topics.

Topic 1: Ubiquitin(-like) chemistry and biology
Topic 2: Proteasome activity
Topic 3: Antigen presentation

The group has an interest to develop novel chemical technologies or specific molecules that enable novel findings. For example an inhibitor for an unexplored target, found through either rational design of through screening and chemical optimization. Another field of interest is the total synthesis of proteins that cannot be obtained by expression. A good example is the optimized linear synthesis of ubiquitin in  combination with a novel chemical ubiquitylation strategy. This has allowed the construction of virtually any possible ubiquitin chain and other ubiquitin derivatives such as assay substrates.

The group has extensive experience in organic synthesis, intein chemistry, expressed protein ligation, mass spectrometry, protein purification, fluorescence-based techniques, FACS analysis, confocal microscopy and various standard biochemical techniques. The lab comprises a fully equipped peptide synthesis facility including multiple synthesizers, purifiers, mass guided autopurification and LC-MS and NMR equipment.

Academic career

Huib Ovaa studied Chemistry and carried out his doctoral research at Leiden University. The title of his doctoral thesis (2001, cum laude) reads ‘Olefin Metathesis in Carbohydrate Chemistry: Synthetic Applications’. His career later on was as follows:

2016 – present professor Leiden University Medical Centre
2016 – present professor Leiden University
2012 – 2015 extraordinary professor Leiden University
2010 – present 0.1FTE C.S.O. UbiQ Bio B.V.
2009 – present Tenured staff member NKI
2005 – 2012 Assistant Professor, Leiden University, the Netherlands
2004 – 2009 Junior group leader, NKI
2004 – 2005 Guest Researcher, Leiden University
2003 – 2004 Instructor in Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
2001 – 2003 Post-doctoral fellow, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

Three most important papers since 2010

  1. Chemical synthesis of ubiquitin, ubiquitin-based probes, and diubiquitin. El Oualid F, Merkx R, Ekkebus R, Hameed DS, Smit JJ, de Jong A, Hilkmann H, Sixma TK, Ovaa H. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2010, 49(52), 10149-10153.
  2. On terminal alkynes that can react with active-site cysteine nucleophiles in proteases. Ekkebus R, van Kasteren SI, Kulathu Y, Scholten A, Berlin I, Geurink PP, de Jong A, Goerdayal S, Neefjes J, Heck AJ, Komander D, Ovaa H. J Am Chem Soc. 2013 135(8), 2867-2870.
  3. Altered peptide ligands revisited: vaccine design through chemically modified HLA-A2-restricted T cell epitopes. Hoppes R, Oostvogels R, Luimstra JJ, Wals K, Toebes M, Bies L, Ekkebus R, Rijal P, Celie PH, Huang JH, Emmelot ME, Spaapen RM, Lokhorst H, Schumacher TN, Mutis T, Rodenko B, Ovaa H. J Immunol. 2014 193(10):4803-4813.

Prizes and honourable appointments

2013 VICI grant (NWO, Netherlands Organization for scientific research)
2011 KNCV gold medal (yearly awarded to the best Dutch chemist under 40 years of age)
2010 ERC consolidator grant
2009 Amsterdam Inventor Award
2009 Award Dutch society for molecular biology and biochemistry (NVBMB).
2008 Dana Farber Cancer Institute career development award.
2007 Top 25 EURYI competition 2007 (no award made due to lack of funds).
2006 Top 50 EURYI competition 2006.
2005 VIDI grant (NWO).
2005 Assistant professor (0 FTE) Leiden University.
2004 AVL fellowship, Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI-AVL).
2003 VENI grant (NWO).
2003 Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center SPORE career development award
2002 C.J. Kok prize, Leiden University. Best Ph.D. thesis.
2001 TALENT-fellowship (NWO).
2001 cum laude Ph.D.
1998 SIR Stipend (NWO).

Professor of Chemical biology of post-translational protein modification

  • Faculteit Geneeskunde
  • Divisie 4
  • Cel en Chemische biologie


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