Lefkofsky Secures $70 Million to Expand Tempus’ Cancer-Care Platform

Eric Lefkofsky’s technology company, Tempus, has secured $70 million in funding.

Lefkofsky is Chicago’s serial entrepreneur and co-founder of companies such as Groupon, InnerWorkings and Echo Global Logistics. In 2015, he founded Tempus, a health-tech startup that uses “big data” to advance and optimize the approach to cancer treatment. Tempus focuses on collecting and analyzing large volumes of molecular and clinical data whereby it aims to help physicians personalize and optimize cancer care. The company has announced that it has raised $70 million in Series C funding, which brings the total amount of funding for the two-year-old company to $130 million. The boost comes from two Washington, D.C.-area venture funds, namely New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Revolution Growth.


While Lefkofsky has mostly self-funded Tempus until now, the investment is one of the largest in Chicago in the past year. Both NEA and Revolution are already familiar with Lefkofsky, having backed his and his co-founder’s previous ventures, including Groupon, Echo Global Logistics and InnerWorkings. Regarding the funding, Peter Barris of NEA states that “Given NEA’s long and successful history investing in the intersection of technology and life science, we felt like the perfect strategic partner given Tempus’ mission to help doctors personalize care by collecting and analyzing large volumes of data.”


Not all cancers develop equally. Cancer is by definition dynamic, as it is not just one but several diseases that afflict different regions of the body by which the cancer type is defined. Normally, the body controls cell growth, making sure to eliminate abnormal cells. When this mechanism fails, it results in rapid and uncontrolled growth of cells that should have been eliminated. This uncontrolled growth of cells that amasses to what is called a tumor, or a collection of either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) cells, is the common denominator of most cancer types. The reasons behind why some individuals develop cancer while others do not are not well understood. However, it is known that length of exposure to certain carcinogens as well as genetics play important roles in cancer development. While research efforts have greatly advanced the understanding of cancer and thus the treatment of cancer patients, much is still left to be understood and optimized.


Cancer patient health data is stored in the forms of doctors’ notes, lab test results, diagnoses, exacerbations and remissions, which is far from optimal, despite many of the advancement of electronic health records have led to much of the progress in the health industry. In fact, there is a vast discrepancy between cancer patient data and its use for the development of personalized and optimized treatment solutions. Lefkofsky recognized that hospitals were far behind the use of data as he states, “You realize if you’ve been a patient or know someone who’s been a patient that technology has not permeated health care and certainly oncology the way it has permeated other industries.”


As such, two years ago, Eric Lefkofsky, together with his long-time business partner Brad Keywell co-founded Tempus. The main aim was to provide a platform that will help bridge the gap between patient data and its implementation and thus yield better and more personalized treatment options. Tempus provides a software platform that relies on optical character recognition and natural language processing that can gather electronic healthcare records across offices and medical institutions. The company then uses “Big Data Analytics” to create personalized treatment paradigms as well as continuous optimization options of cancer care during disease progression or remission.


In a short period of time, Tempus has forged collaborations with several institutions, including Northwestern, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University School of Medicine and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Lefkofsky commented that “The real hurdle that I didn’t know we’d be able to get through is: Could we get these top academic medical cancer centers to contribute data? The answer is a resounding yes.” He also stated that the additional secured funds will enable Tempus to expand that database.


Exactly how does Tempus reach the goals it sets out for itself? The company provides genomic and transcriptomic sequencing services. It analyzes somatic and germline molecular information and pairs that with patients’ health and treatment history to help physicians and health care professionals deliver personalized cancer care. Furthermore, Lefkofsky states that “In oncology, and across healthcare more broadly, datasets have historically been small and disorganized. “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 to put it to work for the benefit of patients.”


Lefkofsky also comments that “There is a large and growing number of doctors who are using our system today, using our labs and data that we provide.” He also states that “I knew if we had the data, we’d be able to build elegant software to make their jobs easier. That’s happening. We’ve just got to get as many hospitals as we can and as many practitioners connected to Tempus so they’re using our tech, contributing data, and the whole ecosystem gets stronger.” Lefkofsky’s latest venture is only two years young, and he elaborates: “We’re ahead or on target where we hoped to be. As we approach about 200 people, we’re getting to scale. It’s now about: How do you weave together this ecosystem so when you bring Big Data to cancer care, you can allow physicians to make real-time decisions based on data and allow researchers to improve the research they do based on data?”


In addition to his many business ventures, Lefkofsky is also a philanthropist. He and his wife founded the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, whose primary aims are the advancement education, fundamental human rights, medicine, art and culture initiatives. Both have also committed to contributing nearly half their wealth to philanthropic causes through their membership at The Giving Pledge. Lefkofsky’s 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, World Business Chicago and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that is based in Chicago.


The author of ‘Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation’, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Further reading: http://californiablog.org/content/philanthropy-eric-lefkofsky-serves-diverse-organizations