Eric Lefkofsky Explains How He Is Helping the Medical Community Fight Cancer


The biggest challenge to creating an environment where personalized medicine is the norm is data, according to Eric Lefkofsky. Eric has seen how the medical community treats patients up close after a loved one was diagnosed with cancer.


This experience led Eric to ask where the data was. He found that the data infrastructure is “fundamentally broken.” The data does exist, but it is being stored for the purpose of getting the bills paid.


Medical professionals have to have clinical data so that they can compare it to molecular data. When medical professionals can do this, relevant patterns are illuminated. Right now, it is impossible to do this because the system as described here does not yet exist.


As an example, Mr. Lefkofsky introduced cable television into the discussion. He stated that it would be impossible to talk about cable television at a time when there were only three or four television stations. He remembers when communications companies came to his neighborhood and installed the necessary wires to make cable possible. He thinks that this is what must be done in the medical community today.


Currently, there is an “absence of an operating system in healthcare,” according to Mr. Lefkofsky. That means that the medical community does not have a way to collect data, clean it up and structure it. After that has been completed, you have to do something with the data, and he envisions this process unfolding in waves.


The First Waves


The first wave is for companies like Tempus to take the data from where it is currently stored and put it where it can be combined with other data. Then, this data can be enriched so that it is meaningful to medical professionals and placed into medical records. After that has been done, medical professionals will be able to order tests, and the bills can be paid.



Answering the Important Questions


One of the main problems in treating cancer is the question related to medication. The medical community needs to know who benefits the most from a particular medication. As it is now, a drug will work for some patients, but it will not work for others, and the medical community needs data to sort this question out. For example, the data will be able to tell a physician that a patient’s DNA profile shows that he or she would not respond to a particular medication because other patients who share similar profiles did not respond to it. This gives the doctor the option of choosing another medication or shortening the length of time that the patient is taking the drug.


Physicians couldn’t practice medicine in the above-described way before. Now, it is possible to perform genetic sequencing at a much lower cost and analyze it at a much lower cost, so the necessary technology tools will be created to make that happen.


Resistance to New Technology


Mr. Lefkofsky is aware that there is resistance to this new way of doing things, but he cannot think of any new technology that has been led by the government or other cooperative process that hasn’t been fought by someone.


Right now, Mr. Lefkofsky and Tempus are focusing on turning notes and images into structured data and storing it in a library. Tempus’ partners can now access this stored data to perform research, and they are asking the company to expand this technology so that it can be used for diseases other than cancer.


About Eric Lefkofsky


Eric Lefkofsky is a co-founder of Tempus, and he is also the company’s CEO.


Mr. Lefkofsky is currently on the board of directors of Children’s Memorial Hospital, Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Science and Industry. He is a board member of World Business Chicago and is the co-chairman of the Technology Council for World Business Chicago. He is also a Trustee of Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In May of 2008, he became a member of the committee that was trying to bring the Summer Olympics to Chicago in 2016.


Eric Lefkofsky is also a teacher and has taught at several business schools in the city of Chicago. He wrote a book about technology and business called “Accelerated Disruption.” He has started several other companies, and they include Uptake, Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics and InnerWorkings, but his first company was a carpet business that he established while he was still a student at the University of Michigan. He earned his Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School in 1993.



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