At the end of November 2018, Eric Lefkofsky spoke to Max Chafkin of Bloomberg Businesweek at Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead summit which took place in New York. When asked what caused him to get in the healthcare industry, Lefkfosky noted that while he did not think that he would take part in the healthcare sector, 4 years ago when he dealt with someone who was battling caner he was perplexed about how little data had permeated that process.
He points out that he spent his career structuring unstructured data, which is a common theme with his companies. Whether it’s manufacturing, logistics, or printing, his mission is to bring technology to industries that do not have a lot of technology. Thus he became convinced that he had to bring the same technology to the healthcare industry that his company brought in the past to other industries. He started Tempus 3 years ago in order to figure out if they can fix the underlying data infrastructure, as well as in other aspects of healthcare. Lefkofsky states that the challenge is getting clean-structured, clinical data connected to molecular data in one place, which means figuring out who the patient is, what drugs they are taking, how they are responding to drugs, and by sequencing the patients they can begin to understand why they are having certain responses.
By sample count, Tempus is currently the 2nd largest clinical sequencer of cancer patients in the United States, and is growing rapidly. While other companies focus on prevention, Tempus focuses on the managing disease side, which means that the sequencing has to be in great depth. Later in the interview, Lefkofksy also mentioned that when Tempus was started they wanted to have a holistic approach to the problem, combining 3 types of data: phenotypic data, morphologic data, and molecular data. He considers that only by combining all 3 types of data one can really get a picture as to what is happening to the patient. While there are certain companies that are doing great work when covering certain aspects, he considers that they often miss the context of what happened to the patients, and the problem can be solved by putting everything under one roof in order to see patterns that describe why something is happening to the patient.
When talking about the business side of things, Eric Lefkofsky points out that he has been fortunate to be part of 6 companies from the beginning, with each of them having an interesting past and having something to offer as far as learning goes. 3 of the companies went public, one of them was sold, and 2 are operating today. He takes the simple approach of repeating the things that worked in the past and trying to avoid the things that didn’t.
About Eric Lefkofsky:
He attended the University of Michigan, and earned his Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tempus, a leading provider of technology-enabled precision medicine solutions. In addition, he is the founding partner of Lightbank, the co-founder as well as Chairman of Groupon, co-founder of Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics, and Inner Workings.
Besides his business ventures, Lefkofsky established in 2006 the Lefkosfky Family Foundation, which is a private charitable foundation designed to advance initiative which enhance lives in the communities they serve. He is also a Trustee at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago, and The Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, he is the Chairman of the Board of Trustee at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.