Indy car driver on UI campus


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Indy car driver Buddy Lazier is spending 2014 “racing for a cure.”

He and his racecar, which bears the logo of the University of Iowa Wynn Institute for Vision Research, will participate in the Homecoming Parade, with Lazier serving as the grand marshal.

In 1996, Lazier won the Indy 500 race, and because of a close personal connection with vision loss, has partnered with the Wynn Institute with a program called Race for the Cure.

“It’s a privilege to have [the institute’s name] on the side of the racecar … because it is making breakthroughs that are changing history,” Lazier said. “It’s just amazing the things that are happening in that building, and I’m very proud to do anything I can to help.”

Lazier visited the Carver College of Medicine on Thursday to talk with researchers about the research done at the Wynn Institute, which combats eye disease and inheritable blindness.

Lazier’s 12-year-old daughter is one person hoping to be helped by the research from the institute.
Jacqueline Lazier has aniridia, a rare condition characterized by the absence of all or part of the iris. This also causes increased sensitivity to light.  In addition to aniridia, she has glaucoma, which is increased pressure in the eyes that leads to vision loss.

The diseases have caused her to lose vision in her right eye.

“My daughter was diagnosed and was born with a very rare and sporadic disease,” Lazier said. “It’s amazing to me what they have done at the Wynn Institute in the past year they’ve been here, and it gives families like ours hope.”

Professor Ed Stone, the director of the institute, said part of his mission is to tell people there’s something that can be done.

“Whenever we have a media-worthy event that will get people out here to talk to us and get something in the newspaper or on the radio, there’s a chance for our message to reach somebody and encourage them,” he said.

Associate Professor John Fingert of the institute said Lazier inspires those working in the lab.

“In some ways, his work with racecars is the same kind of approach we want to have with our research here,” he said. “We want his attention to getting everything just right in order to move with all possible speed toward a big success; for him, it’s winning a race, and for us, it’s trying to prevent blindness.”

In addition to visiting the Wynn Institute, Lazier will participate in the parade as a means of promoting the institute.

He said he hopes having the car in the parade as well will draw attention to the institute and its research and successes.

“I don’t know anywhere in the world that’s making the progress these guys are making,” he said. “I not only hope but have great faith that their work is making, and already has made, a big difference.”

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