Early studies in lower Eukaryotes have defined a role for the members of the NimA related kinase (Nek) family of protein kinases in cell cycle control. Expansion of the Nek family throughout evolution has been accompanied by their broader involvement in checkpoint regulation and cilia biology. Moreover, mutations of Nek family members have been identified as drivers behind the development of ciliopathies and cancer. Recent advances in studying the physiological roles of Nek family members utilizing mouse genetics and RNAi-mediated knockdown are revealing intricate associations of Nek family members with fundamental biological processes. Here, we aim to provide a comprehensive account of our understanding of Nek kinase biology and their involvement in cell cycle, checkpoint control and cancer.