Eric Lefkofksy has made a name for himself as one of the Chicago area’s most successful tech entrepreneurs. After having founded Groupon, an innovative company that uses the power of volume purchasing to get group discounts for people in disperse locations across the country, he went on to found a series of other highly successful companies. But then his wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2013.
Over the course of the next year, Lefkofsky accompanied his wife to her medical appointments. He was distraught to find out that, often times, oncologists had less access to quality data than did truck drivers or salesmen. He was also surprised to discover the extent to which modern cancer treatments still take a one-size-fits-all approach. If companies like Amazon are capable of generating pages that are highly customized to a user’s preferences, why couldn’t oncology, with the billions and billions spent on it each year, do the same? He set out to research what the answers to those questions were.
Eventually, he came to the conclusion that no single package existed for oncological use that drew from all of the crucial sources of medical data and combined that data into a useful output. In 2016, Lefkofsy founded Tempus, a company dedicated to creating custom analytics for oncologists, enabling the most powerful information available to be put into the clinical setting, in real time.
Tempus makes use of many data sources, including electronic medical records and scientific research papers. But the most important source of the data that the Tempus system relies on is the human genome itself. Lefkofsky explains that the cost of sequencing a single person’s genome has dropped precipitously over the last 14 years. In the year 2003, when the first full human genome was sequenced, the cost was a whopping $100,000,000. Fast forward 14 years and that price tag has plummeted to just $5,000, a 20,000-fold decrease. Eric Lefkofksy projects that number will fall to just a couple hundred dollars in the coming decade.
At such low prices, it will become commonplace for people to have their genome sequenced. Tempus will make optimal use of this data.