A brilliant scientist with the spirit of an entrepreneur, Joseph A. Walder, MD, PhD, has helped everyone from farmers and scientists to physicians and patients thanks to his breakthroughs in biological research. Along the way, he also has inspired colleagues and championed the University of Iowa, where he launched his illustrious career.
After earning his MD and PhD degrees from Northwestern University, Dr. Walder joined the UI in 1978 as an assistant professor of biochemistry. He eventually became a full professor and conducted cutting-edge biochemical research that included developing anti-sickling compounds and a hemoglobin derivative blood substitute.
In 1987, Dr. Walder established Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) through a seed grant from Baxter Health Care, which was interested in his work on hemoglobin and sickle-cell disease. Before selling the company in 2018, he grew IDT into the world's leading provider of synthetic oligonucleotides—or short DNA fragments—that benefit researchers in a range of disciplines.
Known for his creative solutions in the field of molecular medicine, Dr. Walder's notable honors include CEO of the Year from the Technology Association of Iowa and Entrepreneur of the Year from the Iowa Biotechnology Association.
Though he left the UI in 1994, Dr. Walder remained a loyal supporter of the UI Department of Biochemistry. His company also invested in biochemistry graduate education and donated $1 million to create a sibling play space in UI Stead Family Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
A visionary researcher, innovative thinker, and transformative philanthropist, Dr. Walder embodies the best of Iowa's values. As Charles Brenner, the UI Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry, says, "Dr. Walder's accomplishments in biotechnology and philanthropy have made him a living legend at the University of Iowa."
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.