Following a PhD in organic chemical synthesis at Leiden University and three years at Harvard University, Huib Ovaa joined the NKI in 2005 to establish a chemical biology laboratory. In 2016 he moved to Leiden University Medical Center. His group used their amassed chemical skills to make new research tools that allow scientists to tackle previously intractable problems in cancer research. Their novel tools are used to study diverse biological processes, including post-translational protein modifications and the mechanisms of antigen presentation, which is a critical part of the immune response.
In the spring of 2020 Huib Ovaa died at the age of 46.