Technology Meets Philanthropy: Love at First Sight

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Already known for his successful e-commerce start-ups, Eric Lefkofsky co-founded and self-funded Tempus, a genomics company in 2015. It was not his first foray into philanthropy as he and his wife Liz established the Lefkofsky Family Foundation in 2006. Given that Eric has always used technology to improve lives, it is only natural he would continue that trend as a philanthropist.

For the last twenty-plus years the common thread in Lefkofsky’s endeavors (logistics, media, manufacturing, commerce) has been technology. As was true in many of his other pursuits, he had no background in medicine until he started Tempus. So when he initially promoted a vision of marrying his first love, technology with the latest options for cancer treatment, it was met with skepticism. Hundreds of other companies previously established had already been seeking the best drug therapies for cancer patients, but Lefkofsky’s vision expands those ideas in a way not done prior. Even though research is offering new treatments at a breakneck pace, that information is difficult for physicians to access. Lefkofsky’s goal with Tempus is centered on creating a massive database to help oncologists keep up with the changing landscape that is cancer treatment.

Simply stated, Tempus connects with a large network of hospitals to collect data. It also provides gene-sequencing tests to give oncologists access to the latest clinical trials. Doing so allows the doctor to determine what therapies most benefit individual patients. It is a vast undertaking as the data must be gathered and accessed through software that Tempus also provides, but with this level of information available to oncologists the opportunity to offer individual treatment geared to a single patient’s own genetic code takes cancer treatment to the next level.

While Lefkofsky’s goals are ambitious, he and his partner, Brad Keywell have never backed away from a challenge. He says, “Our motivation for starting companies is very personal: We come across some problem, and you have this lightbulb that goes off that says, ‘I have this solution.’ “