Eric Lefkofsky on ways technology can help doctors cure cancer

Doctors have new tools for fighting cancers. Cancer is a disease we know by one name, but which is really a wide variety of problems. Some cancers are primarily caused by a viral infection, or smoking, and some are due to a genetic roll of the dice. Each person is unique, and so is each cancer. Getting the medicine right, up until now was the purview of either a single specialist, or more recently, a team of specialists. They review the numbers, pore over the literature, and try to match surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and even nutrition to try to get the best outcome possible. The pace of medical information technology is increasing much quicker than people can catch up, and some are starting to recognize that we could do better.

This is where Tempus steps in to provide these specialized teams the information they need to build a treatment plan. In the medical world, the fax machine still reigns, and handwritten notes from physicians are transcribed, but present a challenge for computers. Scans and free-form text fields won’t submit to the clockwork machinery in simple computer programs, and some observations are lost without the ability to find them in disjoint systems across different offices.

Founder and CEO of Tempus Eric Lefkofsky is bringing technologies into the medical community to help with these problems, to bridge the gap with computers and new information technologies that can weed through data.

The technology used across silicon valley involves new challenges for these groups and Lefkofsky, former co-founder of Groupon, is no stranger to the niche issues of bringing technology to bear. He realized when starting Tempus that a bespoke treatment plan for one person may rely on something found in their genome sequencing, a vast amount of data that has only recently become available. Across this industry, there are few who doubt the potential in better information, even if it means making notes more searchable and durable. Tempus wants to “cutting-edge genomic sequencing and analysis methods,” which has the potential to save millions of lives.

Lefkofsky has an impressive history of thoughtful philanthropy, and since 2006 has operated the Lefkofsky Foundation for the “purpose of supporting charitable, scientific, and educational organizations and causes around the world”. He is seeing firsthand with Tempus how $1 million to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University can impact real lives. They also gave $500,000 to fund gastric cancer research at Stanford University, and $1.2 million to University of Michigan for cancer research.

Lefkofsky has taught variously at DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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