According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 14.5 million Americans were living with a cancer diagnosis in 2014. By 2024, that figure is expected to rise to around 19 million. Statistics like these reflect the urgency and importance of the cancer research that is being performed around the world. New developments in this fight happen all the time, but some of the most exciting ones these days are happening in the worlds of biotech and genomics. More specifically, a data-driven precision medicine revolution is underway, and visionaries like Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder of Tempus, are at its forefront.
Eric Lefkofsky is best known for being the co-founder of Groupon, which of course has enjoyed phenomenal success. Based on his experiences with a loved-one’s cancer treatment, he quickly identified a gaping hole in the world of cancer research. Even though there was access to cutting-edge treatments, those treatments were supported and informed by a shocking dearth of modern technology. In particular, little to nothing was being done about the wealth of data that was continually being generated through the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
When the transition from paper medical records to electronic medical records, or electronic health records, began, it was seen as a sign that the healthcare industry was finally entering the modern, digital era. Unfortunately, however, the development of EHRs was shortsighted in many ways. In particular, EHRs were not designed with research and data collection in mind. Rather, they were designed to facilitate bill payment and insurance claims processing. Eric Lefkofsky and others view this as a missed opportunity and are working tirelessly to correct it.
Eric Lefkofsky realized that underlying data infrastructure in cancer research and care was sorely lacking. Thanks to his considerable connections in the world of tech, he got in on the ground floor of Tempus, which is described as an end-to-end solution for data and genomic sequencing. Eric came on board to help found the company, and to bring it the resources and insights that it needed.
So, what is Tempus doing that is so remarkable? Right now, the firm is constructing the largest library of clinical and molecular data that has ever been put together as well as software that will actually make it useful. The organization has developed tools and technologies that help to clean and organize clinical and laboratory data to generate molecular data affordably and efficiently.
Not very long ago, the idea of doing what Eric Lefkofsky and Tempus are doing would have seemed like a pipe dream. When the first human genome was sequenced in 2003, the cost to do so was around $100 million. Fast-forward just 15 years later, and the cost to do so has dropped to less than $5,000. Soon enough, it will cost less than $200 to map an entire genome. With sequencing becoming so affordable, this is the perfect time to finally start making effective use of the amazing wealth of medical data that is generated every single day. Since being founded in 2015, Tempus has quickly begun achieving many of its core objectives.
The work that is being performed by Tempus holds incredible promise for the future of cancer research and treatment. By collecting and analyzing genomic information from cancer patients, doctors will be able to provide more precise, personalized care. The Tempus platform has been designed to be as intuitive and useful as possible, allowing physicians to avail themselves of an array of interactive analytical information that lets them provide more specialized care. One of the biggest hurdles has been transforming physician notes, or progress notes, into structured, usable data. Tempus developed natural language processing and optical character recognition technologies that have finally made this happen.
Born in 1969, the Southfield, Michigan, native attended the University of Michigan, where he graduated with honors in 1991. He immediately attended the University of Michigan Law School, and he graduated with a J.D. degree in 1993. Immediately after graduating, he sold carpeting for a while before purchasing a clothing company with a friend.
Eric Lefkofsky moved over into the world of tech just as the internet bubble was starting to grow. Like so many others in the industry, he experienced his share of ups and downs. In 1999, he helped to found his first internet company, Starbelly, which provided promotional products. Through the years, he would co-found numerous other companies, including Echo Global Logistics, a freight logistics company; Mediaocean, a media-buying tech company; Innerworkings; and Uptake. He is also the co-founder and chairman of Groupon.
More than anything, Eric Lefkofsky is inspired by affecting change that makes people’s lives better. Before he became involved with Tempus, he and his wife had established themselves as major philanthropists. The couple founded the Lefkofsky Foundation, a charitable trust that supports various charities around the world. Its focus is primarily on helping children. In 2013, Eric and Liz joined The Giving Pledge, pledging to donate at least half of their accumulated wealth over their lifetimes..
Approximately 40 percent of American men and women will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. Work by people like Eric Lefkofsky and Tempus is already changing the ways in which we diagnose and treat various types of cancer. This work is making genomic sequencing and other cutting-edge technologies more accessible and practical, and it is having a snowball effect. In no time, Lefkofsky and others believe that most cancer patients will undergo genomic sequencing, and the process will be akin to having blood drawn. The data that is collected can be analyzed and processed to provide crucial insights regarding treatment, including which medications and doses to prescribe. Ultimately, it may hold the key to finally curing cancer once and for all in the future.
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