The rise of next generation sequencing technology has led to the emergence of many new companies that harness its power to fight diseases such as cancer. However, Eric Lefkofsky believes that molecular data gleaned from sequencing is only one piece of the puzzle. That is why Lefkofsky’s Chicago-based tech startup, Tempus, has just rolled out a new platform that structures and annotates clinical data. Per the press release, the new platform can be used as a standalone product or in combination with the company’s other offerings.
The first step to personalized cancer care, Lefkofsky says, is to generate molecular data. Tempus does this in-house by sequencing tumor samples in its NGS lab. The data collected from these analyses includes tumor-specific mutations and biomarkers. Lefkofsky believes that tumor sequencing and analysis needs to be done on a large scale in order to provide real insight, which is why Tempus plans to expand its database to numbers that surpass all existing databases that house molecular and clinical data. Tempus amasses molecular data while using machine learning to identify therapeutically relevant patterns, and its new clinical data platform can contribute further context.
The term clinical data encompasses a wide variety of data types that are collected and stored throughout a patient’s course of treatment. Tempus’ new platform, Tempus O, will structure and annotate everything from images, physician notes, and research databases to lab tests and EMR’s. Lefkofsky has referenced the current state of clinical data systems as evidence for the need for such a platform, stating that most medical data is currently locked up in separate record-keeping systems that are unable to communicate with one another.
According to Lefkofsky, one of the challenges in creating a platform that can analyze clinical data at scale is that much of the data is in free text format. He revealed that Tempus’ platform combats this issue by utilizing natural language processing tools in addition to optical character recognition. The announcement of Tempus O comes on the heels of other product announcements, such as Tempus’ machine-learning immunotherapy platform. Immunotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that harnesses a patient’s own immune system to fight tumor cells, has shown positive results in small patient populations. Tempus’ immunotherapy platform aims to identify why some patients are responding favorably to the treatment while others do not
To maintain its various tech solutions and lab offerings, Tempus employs more than 200 people at its Chicago headquarters, located in the River North neighborhood along the Chicago River. The company is still expanding, both with regards to partnerships and its workforce. A recent article values the company at $700 million, an announcement that came following the details of Tempus’ $130 million Series C round led by Revolution and New Enterprise Associates.
Eric Lefkofsky has said that Tempus is currently his highest priority, but his career in the technology industry is filled with a number of different ventures. He describes himself as a technologist by trade, and is well known for co-founding Groupon, which uses technology to bring consumers together to get daily discounts from participating retailers. Along with retail, Lefkofsky has been active in a variety of industries, all of which he aims to enhance with the use of modern technology. Prior to Tempus, he started Uptake with is business partner Brad Keywell. Uptake provides predictive analytics for industrial assets, giving insight into whether they need maintenance or a replacement. He also started Lightbank, a venture capital firm, with Keywell. Lightbank is Chicago-based and focuses on investing in disruptive technology companies around the midwest and across the country. Lightbank’s strategy of focusing on disruptive technology ties in with ideas outlined in Lefkofsky’s book, Accelerated Disruption , in which he explains that a technology paradigm shift is changing the modern business landscape.
While getting more notoriety for his entrepreneurial career, Eric Lefkofsky is also an active philanthropist. He and his wife started their own foundation, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, which aims to serve the Chicago community through efforts such as funding education and scientific research and are members of the Giving Pledge. Lefkofsky also serves on the board of Chicago’s Art Institute and Museum of Science and Industry, as well as theatre company Steppenwolf.
Read this interview on A Drink With to learn more about Lefkofsky.