Eric Lefkofsky Uses New Technology to Fight Cancer

At the age of 47, and with a number of successful startups under his belt, Eric Lefkofsky was already off to a successful entrepreneurial career. When a loved one was diagnosed with cancer, his outlook on everything changed. In beginning to understand more about the disease and treatment process, Lefkofsky said his thoughts went something like, “I can’t believe how confusing this is. I can’t believe that it isn’t more clear what I should do. I can’t believe I don’t have access to more information and more data.” These questions led him to start Tempus, a company that brings a data-driven line of attack to treating cancer.


Changing the Healthcare Landscape


Eric Lefkofsky is a serial entrepreneur, one who has started several different companies with his business partner Brad Keywell. Working together, the two have and built a legacy by becoming 2 of Chicago’s most successful tech founders. Due to Lefkofsky’s experience and past success in the tech industry, Tempus certainly has the support it needs to bring about change in healthcare.


Tempus uses genomic sequencing and machine learning to understand the ins and outs of a patient’s cancer. The company takes this information and develops a treatment plan to fight it. Lefkofsky has committed his formidable managing talents to running Tempus while Keywell is focusing on Uptake, which is a predictive analytics startup. While Lefkofsky is certainly up to the task, Tempus is something new for him and unlike anything he’s ever done before.


A Major Investment


According to Forbes, Lefkofsky is worth $1.7 billion and he has committed to spending hundreds of millions of his own money on this effort. This type of financial support gives the company an advantage over competitors that must seek outside funding to stay in business.


When his wife received the cancer diagnosis, fighting the disease became a personal mission for Eric. Since cancer treatment involves meeting with doctors and specialists, dealing with the disease is generally a confusing time for patients and their families. It was no different for the Lefkofskys, but this confusion and frustration led Eric to action.



Entering a New World


Tempus is currently developing a molecular and clinical library that includes patient data and a software platform that will make this information accessible to physicians. The company’s centralized database permits doctors to learn from prior cancer patients, permitting them to locate people who have similar clinical and molecular profiles as their current patients to narrow down treatments that are likely to be the most effective.


Tempus is already partnering with dozens of hospitals, including big hitters like the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University and the University of Michigan. Oncologists who work out of these cancer centers and send patient’s samples to Tempus to have them sequenced in the company’s lab. Tempus then pairs the person’s clinical and molecular information, sending a report to the referring doctor. The company also gives the doctor access to its operating platform. Once the doctor receives patient data from Tempus, he or she can see what mutations a patient may have and which treatment options were effective against certain past mutations. The collaboration between software engineers and scientists (both computational and biological) has been part of the company’s DNA and from day one has been central to the company’s success in building a learning system that is both effective and able to operate at scale. However, the company is tech based, so most of its employees are data scientists. Tempus is growing and is hiring three to five people each week.


Eric Lefkofsky: A True Visionary


Before charging into the war on cancer, Eric Lefkofsky was a founding member of Lightbank, which is a venture fund that focused on investing in disruptive technologies. He is also the Chairman and cofounder of Groupon as well as the cofounder of Uptake Technologies, an analytic platform that works with many of the world’s largest industries.


Along with founding many profit-based corporations, Eric Lefkofsky has donated his time and talents to charitable foundations and cultural organizations. For instance, he and his wife formed the Lefkofsky Family Foundation. Their foundation supports scientific, charitable and educational organizations around the world. He is also a trustee of the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and The Art Institute of Chicago.



Change Often Needs Time


With top cancer clinics expressing their support for Tempus and Eric Lefkofsky’s record of successful startups, the company has proven itself to be heading toward high achievement. It may even become his greatest success: one that improves the way that doctors treat cancer.


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