Eric Lefkofsky, the founder of Groupon and one of Chicago’s most influential tech figures, has donated millions of dollars toward cancer research during his life. Now, he’s behind a startup that wants to take a smarter approach in the race to cure cancer.
Chicago Inno has learned that since leaving his CEO role at Groupon, Lefkofsky has been working on Tempus, a health-tech startup that’s “building the infrastructure to modernize cancer treatment.” The company has been quietly working out of Lightbank, a Chicago early-stage VC firm founded by Lefkofsky, multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans said. A corporate/LLC search with the Illinois Secretary of State for Tempus Health Inc. identifies Lefkofsky as the the company’s president.
Lefkofsky’s exact level of day-to-day involvement with Tempus isn’t clear, and Lefkofsky didn’t return multiple email requests for comment.
Tempus’ website says it is helping doctors and healthcare professionals make real-time, personalized, and data-driven treatment decisions by “analyzing a patient’s genetic code in the context of molecular therapies.” Tempus says it uses “cutting-edge genomic sequencing and analysis methods” to help doctors better understand a patient’s tumor.
“Tempus collects and analyzes large amounts of genomic data using statistical analysis and proprietary algorithms to uncover opportunities to assist a patient’s physician in providing more precise and personalized medicine,” the website reads. Tempus’ data is used to help doctors develop a better care plan and treatment for the patient.
Tempus says it’s working with patients with breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer, and expects to add more types of cancer over time.
A video on Tempus’ website titled It Can Be Done says, “At Tempus, we believe we can propel the next breakthrough in healthcare.”
A LinkedIn search shows there are 29 Tempus employees, including Hunter Lane, a former director of product at HighGround who now lists himself with the same title at Tempus, and Anil Saldanha, a former Trustwave alum who’s listed at Tempus’ VP of engineering. Not listed on LinkedIn, but who sources say holds an executive role at Tempus, is Ryan Fukushima, a former Lighbank VC.
Lefkofsky and his wife Liz give frequently to cancer research causes through the Lefkofsky Family Foundation. Last November the Lefkofsky’s donated $1 millionto the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University; one month earlier they donated $500,000 to support immunotherapy for gastric cancer research at Stanford University; in the same month they gave $1.2 million to University of Michigan for cancer research; and they also donated $250,000 to New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine for breast cancer research in November.
Lefkofsky is also a Trustee at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
In 2013, the Lefkofsky’s became members of The Giving Pledge and promised to donate at least half of their wealth over their lifetimes to philanthropy.
In a July 18 post on his personal blog, Lefkofsky wrote about how big data and artificial intelligence are moving society forward, and “…one of the most interesting applications will inevitably be in healthcare, where we now have large unmined databases of molecular data.”
He continued in his blog, without specifically mentioning Tempus, to describe the applications that today’s scientific breakthroughs can have on healthcare:
In 2003, we sequenced the first human genome, unlocking the recipe book for all life. Finally, we could assemble all the As, Cs, Gs and Ts that determine how our cells function, and ultimately how we function. But the cost of generating this data was prohibitive at well over $100 million per genome.
Today, just 13 years later, that same genome can be sequenced for under $5,000; that’s a twenty-thousand-fold decrease in cost in just over a decade. And soon, it was cost a few hundred dollars.
The significance of being able to build a personalized molecular map of every human, healthy and sick, is almost incomprehensible. We will for the first time be able to see, at an atomic level, what is happening to each individual who contracts a disease, or fights one off.
Not only will this extend our knowledge of potential actionable targets by a thousand-fold, but it will allow us to truly personalize the drugs and therapies for each patient. We can tailor medications. We can tailor dose. We can tailor regimen and sequence.
And when we can personalize therapies for patients, we can keep them alive longer. Out of all our advances in gathering and analyzing data over the past few decades, perhaps this is the greatest insight we as a civilization can garner.
Lefkofsky was replaced as Groupon’s CEO by the company’s former COO Rich Williams in November 2015. Lefkofsky has been one of Chicago’s most prominent serial entrepreneurs, having also founded InnerWorkings, Echo Global Logistics, Mediaocean and, Uptake–a startup that’s being led by Lefkofsky’s Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell.
Image via Groupon