Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus, a technology company whose aim is to build the world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data along with an operating system to make that data accessible and useful, was just voted among Chicago’s top ten tech startups (see the list below). Co-founded in 2015 by Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, his longtime business partner, it has since grown to a 200-person company that has raised $70 million, the largest amount of funding in the third quarter of 2017.
List of Chicago’s Top Ten Tech Startups
1. Avant: financial technology.
2. Outcome Health: healthcare technology.
3. SMS Assist: business solution management provider.
4. IRI: market research.
5. Raise: gift card buyback.
6. Relativity: e-discovery platform for data management.
7. SprngCM: management of sales contracts and all types of documents.
8. Signal: real-time, cross-channel marketing technology.
9. Analyte Health: healthcare diagnostic information provider.
10. Tempus: cancer data health tech.
The greatest source of human information is undoubtedly DNA. We harbor approximately 22,300 protein-coding genes, and adding to this complexity is the fact that every human being has a unique code on every one of his or her trillions of cells. Cancer happens when these cells malfunction. The body’s subsequent inability to eliminate them as faulty cells leads to their amassment, or what is typically referred to as a tumor. The term cancer is an umbrella term, as there are more than 100 different types of cancers, and for each type, there are multiple treatments as well as patients who have used each one with varying degrees of success. Even though cancer is still left to be understood and discovered in its entirety, it is now known that it is a genetic disease, meaning that it fundamentally results from dysfunctions in genes that regulate cellular function, especially their growth and division.
One of the biggest problems that personalized cancer care is facing is the fact that patient treatment results are collected and stored at health centers where treatment took place, and this information is typically only accessible to the patient’s health care provider. In order to bridge the gap between patient data and personalized cancer care, Tempus’ approach includes sequencing, analytics, reporting and validation. Sequencing refers to the use of genomic and transcriptomic sequencing combined with deep machine learning to enable physicians to better understand a patient’s tumor. Analytics refers to the combined analysis of both molecular and clinical data in order to find more personalized treatment options.
With Tempus, Lefkofsky hopes to take a step toward addressing the question of “Why do some patients respond well to a cancer therapy while others do not?” He also highlights that “In oncology, and across healthcare more broadly, datasets have historically been small and disorganized,” and continues with “Thankfully, technology has opened the door to new possibilities and for the first time in history, it is possible to amass massive amounts of molecular and clinical data and put it to work for the benefits of patients.” Tempus is currently collaborating with Northwestern, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University School of Medicine, the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Knight Cancer Institute at the OHSU.
Michael Liang, a Chicago-based partner at Baird Capital venture fund is eager to see how Tempus’ story will evolve, stating that “The biggest question is reimbursement.” “How do you get paid for these tests and differentiate your tests?” However, Lefkofsky is ready to face the challenge as he states that he is “confident that in five or 10 years, the average oncologist will be connected to a system like Tempus. Whether or not it’s Tempus, it’s too soon to say.”
About Eric Lefkofsky
A Southfield, Michigan native, Lefkofsky and his wife Liz have been married for nearly two decades and have three children. He graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with high honors and went on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
Lefkofsky is one of Chicago’s most influential innovators as well as an avid philanthropist. In addition to Tempus, Lefkofsky’s other entrepreneurial ventures include Lightbank, a venture fund that focuses its investments on disruptive technologies, Groupon, a global e-commerce marketplace, Uptake Technologies, an analytics platform for the world’s largest industries, Mediaocean, an integrated media procurement technologies provider, Echo Global Logistics, a technology-enabled transportation and logistics outsourcing firm and InnerWorkings, whose focus is on providing managed print and promotional solutions globally.
Lefkofsky’s philanthropy repertoire is just as dynamic as that of his business ventures. In 2006, he and his wife established the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, whose primary aim is to advance high-impact initiatives in education, fundamental human rights, medicine, art and culture that enhance lives in the communities that are served. The two are also members of The Giving Pledge. Lefkofsky is also on the board of trustees of the Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that is based in Chicago.
He also authored the book Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation.
Check out Lefkofsky’s interview on A Drink With.