Lefkofsky startup takes on cancer
Eric Lefkofsky is bringing his genomics startup, Tempus, out of stealth mode, announcing today its first partnership, with Northwestern University’s cancer center.
Several other hospital collaborations are expected to be announced soon as the chairman and former CEO of Groupon embarks on his most ambitious venture ever—utilizing Big Data to help physicians tailor cancer treatment based on a patient’s own genetic profile.
Lefkofsky, who co-founded Groupon and such other e-commerce companies as InnerWorkings and Echo Global Logistics with longtime business partner Brad Keywell, launched the health care software startup late last year. Since then, he quietly has built a company with a headcount approaching 100, heavy on Ph.D.s and data scientists, and a 20,000-square-foot genomics lab in the River North building that houses Groupon and Lightbank, the partners’ venture fund.
Lefkofsky scored a coup earlier this year when he hired Kevin White, a top genetics researcher at the University of Chicago, as Tempus’ president.
The serial entrepreneur said he began Tempus out of need in the health care industry. “You realize that technology has not permeated health care and oncology in the way it has permeated other industries,” Lefkofsky, CEO of Tempus, said in an interview. “Physicians don’t have the tools to analyze the data. The basic infrastructure doesn’t exist at most institutions. As a doctor treating cancer, you have to be molecularly aware. We need tools to help doctors make decisions in a real-time clinical setting.”
In its partnership with Northwestern’s Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Tempus will provide advanced genetic profiles of patients as well as software that enables doctors to compare those to a database of other cancer patients with similar profiles to determine the best treatment options, such as surgery or different types of drugs. Tempus also will provide doctors with info on clinical trials that might be appropriate.
Using gene-sequencing and data analysis is what’s known as “personalized medicine.” It’s an idea that’s been talked about since the human genome was mapped more than a decade ago but hasn’t been put widely into practice. In addition to lacking analytics, researchers have been stymied by the complexity of diseases like cancer.
It’s easier to provide analytics today because the cost of genetic sequencing has dropped from millions of dollars to a few thousand dollars, and data-storage costs have plummeted. “Precision medicine has been growing significantly,” said Dr. Leonidas Platanias, director of the Lurie Cancer Center. “The challenge is what do you do with this information.”
For its part, Lurie will provide anonymized data about patient survival rates and other information that will help Tempus build a larger database for physicians to draw on in making treatment recommendations.
Source: Crain’s Chicago Business