With tremendous sadness, we have recently received news that our colleague Huib Ovaa has passed away. We certainly remember the last time we met and the last words we exchanged. He always participated in our meetings with a very positive and constructive attitude, ready to develop new ideas and to face new challenges together. Those of us who had the opportunity to work together with Huib know that he was always willing to share his knowledge and the incredible tools that he was creating, helping our community to go beyond the current border of knowledge. Pushing concepts beyond the limit was exciting, and even more admirable was his enthusiasm to collaborate. With this aim, Huib integrated with various European networks, including COST-PROTEOSTASIS and the ITN-Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions UPStream, UbiCODE and TRIM-NET.
Huib was best-known in our international scientific community for the development and useful contribution of new technologies, approaches and chemical tools to explore the biology of protein modification by members of the ubiquitin family. These tools were full of creativity and contributed to understand the role of substrates, enzymes and cofactors in regulation of these PTMs. His approach exemplified the use of organic chemistry to explore biological relevant questions such as the mechanisms that regulate the enzymes behind conjugation/deconjugation of ubiquitin or proteasome activity. In this way, researchers in the field were able to detect or measure activities that were until then very difficult to evaluate or simply impossible to explore. A major goal for Huib was to drive the acquisition of new knowledge that could be used to tackle difficult diseases such as cancer, immune or neurodegenerative disorders. All of his tools, technologies and approaches that are important to take crucial decisions in our field, will be part of his legacy.
We lost an amazing scientist, a colleague, a friend. He will be remembered for his spirit, intelligence, scientific rigor and accomplishments.
Post-translational modifications (PTM) by members of the Ubiquitin (Ub) family represent an efficient way to regulate almost every biological process. Defects in this homeostatic equilibrium, result in pathologies such as cancer, neurodegeneration, inflammation or multiple infections. For this reason, this research area has become very attractive for fundamental scientists as well as for the pharmaceutical industry aiming to identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
UbiCODE is a scientific consortium funded by the European Union, bringing together 11 research institutions across 5 European countries to decipher the ubiquitin code and train 13 PhD students in this field.
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
UbiCODE PhD fellows | Annual meeting | Bilbao | 24-25 February 2020
The key scientific mission of our students is to understand how protein modification with Ub/Ubls is generated (written), regulated (edited), recognised (read) and connected with effector functions (interpreted) to regulate cellular plasticity.