Eric Lefkofsky Takes on Cancer: The Life and Work of a Visionary Entrepreneur

It makes sense that Eric Lefkofsky found and lead Tempus, a company dedicated to transforming cancer care as we know it. Tempus represents a culmination of Eric’s many professional endeavors over the years.


Eric learned about business through a quick succession of projects. In 2001, he co-founded the marketing firm InnerWorkings. Today, InnerWorkings is a public company. It’s still thriving, but Eric is no longer on its board of directors.


Eric co-founded a venture fund called Lightbank, which provides capital to cutting-edge technology firms. He also helped establish Echo Global Logistics.


Those and other businesses taught Eric how to form and manage companies. In November 2008, when he helped launch Groupon, he was able to put all of that knowledge to good use. Groupon, of course, is the commercial website that gives shoppers a wealth of deals and discounts, allowing them to try new products, services, and companies. In the process, they can find new favorites.



Disrupting Oncology


Tempus, based in Chicago, is one of Eric’s newest businesses. It’s seeking to revolutionize how oncologists plan and deliver cancer care.


Throughout his career, Eric Lefkofsky has depended on data and, in more recent years, artificial intelligence to achieve his business goals. Therefore, he was surprised to learn that doctors in general and oncologists in particular rarely rely on big data to make decisions in real time. Actually, he found that reality to be unacceptable. Therefore, introducing data to cancer care became his personal mission and the driving mission of Tempus.


Indeed, Eric sees cancer as a mathematical problem. Sure, it’s an incredibly complex problem with many different iterations and permutations, but it’s a math problem nonetheless. With that in mind, if computers could take in vast quantities of data about patients and their cancer journeys, they could search for patterns and make new discoveries as far as which treatments work in which situations. Ultimately, those machines could figure out the specific algorithms that govern this disease.


The people who work at Tempus believe that two types of data will be key to cracking the cancer code. The first type is the broad category of clinical data. It includes patients’ health records, hospital records, and information about the effectiveness of various kinds of medications and therapies. The second grouping is genomic data, which is data that relates to DNA.


Tempus is assembling massive databases that doctors will use to customize their treatments.



A Philanthropist Through and Through


Eric’s philanthropic efforts have been as extensive and impactful as his business activities. He and his wife Liz, founded the Lefkofsky Family Foundation in 2006. It’s a charitable organization that supports other charitable organizations. It looks for foundations that are having a meaningful, widespread effect on their communities, and it supplies them with funding and other forms of assistance.


In particular, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation seeks to fund groups that are involved in one or more of the following fields: art, education, healthcare, human rights, and medical research.



Eric views his passion as the secret to his long string of successes. As he’s stated, when he comes up with a concept , he’ll eventually become so consumed by the idea that he’ll do whatever he can to make it happen. Hopefully, even as he guides Tempus to new victories in the war against cancer, he’ll keep thinking up new projects. For sure, society will be better for it.

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