Eric Lefkofsky and Tempus Chart New Waters in Cancer Care

Chicago-based Tempus, a cancer data-analytics startup, reached a notable milestone in March of this year when they achieved the highly sought “unicorn” status. Startups valued at $1 billion and above are awarded this distinction, and not many Chicago startups can claim this status. The accomplishment was thanks to a recent funding round that netted over $80 million from new donors, Kinship Trust Co. and funds advised by T. Rowe Price Associates. Previous contributors, New Enterprise Associates, and Revolution Growth, also presented additional funds during this fundraising round.

Since the company’s 2015 launch, it has raised a total of $210 million. Tempus uses collected clinical and molecular data to enhance cancer patient treatment. Co-founder and philanthropist, Eric Lefkofsky, has said that the company was born out of frustration with a health care system that too often let powerful data and real-world evidence go to waste. They work alongside multiple facets of the health care system, including drug companies and medical professionals. Currently, they have joined forces with roughly 50 leading research hospitals, including Chicago-area institutions, Northwestern, Rush University and the University of Chicago.

The lofty goal of using data concerning what treatments have worked in the past remains the focus. Because physicians have not had a massive library of data to consult, they have lacked proper resources to utilize big data analytics. Tempus-created technology advances and personalizes care by making use of data from patients from all over the world. Using the genetic information to outline treatment plans leads to greater success in care. Eric Lefkofsky believes that the entire medical industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, and his contributions are certainly a big part of that shift.

Patients are often referred to the data-analytics company to undergo genomic sequencing to personalize their treatment plan based on data collected. Oncologists at multiple National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers rely on them to assist in patient care. Lefkofsky has said, “Our mission is to build a system to usher in precision medicine in cancer and eventually other disease types. To do that, we have to build a library of clinical and molecular data, and then a system to make it useful and accessible. As part of that, you’re scaling the size of the database, scaling the size of the team. We continue to add employees at a fast clip. We’ve outgrown our existing lab. We’re doubling our lab space.”

The startup currently retains about 400 staff members, including computational biologists and software engineers. The number of employees is expanding at a rate of roughly 30 new hires per month. As the creator of one of the largest cancer databases in the world, Tempus reaches approximately 25 to 30 percent of American cancer patients.

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