Tempus Labs: Arming Physicians with Data to Provide Personalized Cancer Care


Three years ago, Eric Lefkofsky, a Chicago entrepreneur, founded Tempus Labs, and the enterprise has already been rated as one of the city’s top ten health tech start-ups. Tempus is a technology company that is aiming to personalize cancer care by gathering and analyzing vast amounts of molecular and clinical data. Its mission – to redefine how genomic data is used in a clinical setting. Its repertoire of offered services includes across-the-board cancer testing, sequencing of patients’ tumors and germline DNA, liquid biopsy of cell-free DNA, RNA sequencing of tumors, immune system characterization of tumors and patients and organoid cultures of tumor cells with drug testing. Tempus uses machine learning algorithm to clean and structure clinical data that it acquires.


Lefkofsky, founder, and CEO of Tempus was featured at the Precision Medicine World Conference (Silicon Valley), a  conference that attracts recognized authorities and experts across healthcare and biotechnology sectors. Lefkofsky joined Ali Tinazli, the healthcare strategic activities lead of HP, in the panel discussion The Scalable Systems Framework for AI and Deep/Machine Learning that was moderated by Atul Butte of the University of California San Francisco. Lefkofsky discussed the reasons behind starting Tempus Labs, the importance of data in cancer care as well the platform that Tempus offers.


According to Lefkofsky, one of the main reasons behind starting the company is the poor organization of cancer care data that presents the biggest obstacle to precision medicine and personalized cancer care. Tempus offers a platform that can clean up messy data as well as organize it so that physicians would be able to access  clinically annotated exomes of data.


“It became clear to me that the underlying data infrastructure at least in cancer was entirely broken. And the only way to solve the problem, arm physicians and researchers with the data they needed would be to completely redo it. Meaning, we had to rip clinical data out of these large medical record systems, we had to be able to abstract that data with speed and quality that could produce structured clinical records. We had to combine that with molecular data, bioinformatics and analytic tools to make sense of that data. And we had to do all that at low cost and essentially real time.”


Lefkofsky based the company on a software platform that relies on optical character recognition and natural language processing that gathers electronic healthcare records from several medical institutions and transforms them into structured data. These findings are then validated with a team of qualified healthcare personnel who check and edit the data before deploying its insights to benefit both providers as well as patients. Overall, this process enables doctors to have access to each of the patients’ unique cancer genetics profiles as well as clinical records based on which future treatment paradigms can be designed.


“If you want to usher in any form of precision medicine, you just have to capture the data and build a model that allows you to structure it, combine it with molecular data and put it into people’s hands,” Lefkofsky comments.


He further states that “I think we are at the dawn of that age when, for the first time ever, we have a series of underlying technology shifts that occurred – the ability to analyze large datasets, to store large datasets, to generate molecular data, to analyze imaging data, AI, all these having nothing to do with healthcare – these background technologies – they are now finally making their way into healthcare.” Lefkofsky believes that there will be a symbiotic relationship between providers and technologists, whereby physicians will no longer attempt to be data scientists and software engineers and vice versa. In other words, this co-existence will both unite professions and thereby maintain individuality and more precise preparation of data, which will ultimately yield personalized and more effective cancer therapy and thereby reduce mortality rates.


When asked about the climate and vision of Tempus, Lefkofsky states that, “We are very problem focused – we believe that this is a problem that can be solved and that hundreds of thousands of people that are dying from cancer can be saved a year.”


About Eric Lefkofsky

Over the last two decades, Lefkofsky has built technology firms that all essentially do the same thing – they structure unstructured messy data and try to bring technology into industries that have not had a lot of technology. These other entrepreneurial ventures include Lightbank, a venture fund that focuses its investments on disruptive technologies, Groupon, a global e-commerce marketplace, Uptake Technologies, an analytics platform for the world’s largest industries, Mediaocean, an integrated media procurement technologies provider, Echo Global Logistics, a technology-enabled transportation and logistics outsourcing firm and InnerWorkings, whose focus is on providing managed print and promotional solutions globally.

Lefkofsky is originally from Southfield, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with high honors after which he attended the University of Michigan Law School where he earned his Juris Doctor degree. Lefkofsky held previous teaching positions at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University as well as at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is also author of Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation. For more information, please visit lefkofsky.com, LinkedIn: ericlefkofsky, Twitter: @lefkofsky or Facebook: @eplefkofsky.

About Tempus

Tempus Labs is 2.5 years young. It has collaborations with NCI-Designated Cancer Centers as well as community hospitals and reputable academic institutions. The company offers an interactive and analytical machine learning platform that enables physicians to deliver personalized cancer care for patients. The company’s ultimate goal is to build the world’s largest library of cancer patient data so that each patient can benefit from the treatment of others who came before. For more information on Tempus, please visit tempus.com, Facebook: @TempusLabs and Twitter: @TempusLabs.

More about Lefkofsky’s philanthropic involvement on Inside Philanthropy.

Chicago Tribune