Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus and OHSU Join Forces to Personalize Cancer Care


A new collaboration has been announced between Tempus, a health-tech startup that focuses on enabling physicians to personalize cancer care by means of gathering and analyzing vast amounts of molecular and therapeutic data, and the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. By working together, the two institutions hope to improve outcomes for patients suffering from breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer.


Cancer, or a tumor, an uncontrolled and rapid accumulation of abnormal (cancerous) cells, was historically defined by the area of the body it affects. It is also defined by its ability to spread, or metastasize, to other organs. Some cancers develop tumors, while others circulate through the blood and the organs. Cancer is therefore not just one disease, but an umbrella term for several diseases, each of which has its own symptoms, characteristics and progressions. Yet cancer is not only about where it grows. It is about how it grows and the genetic alterations that direct it. Some treatments are aimed at addressing these specific alterations.


Eric Lefkofsky founded Tempus in 2015. The company collects a patient’s DNA and RNA samples for sequencing –  it provides genomic and transcriptomic sequencing services as well as analyses of somatic and germline molecular data. It pairs the data with the patient’s health and treatment history via an interactive analytical and machine learning platform to help physicians and health care professionals take a more personal approach in their cancer treatment efforts. Lefkofsky hopes that this will be progress in addressing the question of “Why do some patients respond well to a cancer therapy while others do not?” He also goes on to say that “In oncology, and across healthcare more broadly, datasets have historically been small and disorganized,” and goes on to say that “Thankfully, technology has opened the door to new possibilities and for the first time in history, it is possible to amass massive amounts of molecular and clinical data and put it to work for the benefits of patients.”


As part of the initial research project, Tempus will generate tools to carry out molecular sequencing, analysis as well as decision support based on molecular, clinical and outcome data and patient samples that will be provided by OHSU. Christopher Corless, M.D., Ph.D., executive director and chief medical officer at the Knight Diagnostic Laboratories at the OHSU Knight Center Institute is optimistic about the collaboration, as he states “We are developing a new, highly personalized approach to clinical trials and working with Tempus will give us access to large datasets that will help inform our therapeutic decisions.” In the past, Tempus has secured personalized cancer care collaborations with leading institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University School of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern’s Lurie Cancer Center, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, University of Chicago Medicine, the University of Michigan, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and community hospitals across the country. Through its partnerships with many of the country’s most prestigious research institutions, Tempus aims to compile one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of molecular and clinical data.


“Tempus is dedicated to improving healthcare by combining vast amounts of molecular and clinical data in a system that provides real-time decision support to physicians, researchers and healthcare providers,” according to Lefkofsky, Tempus’ co-founder and CEO. “We are pleased to bring our technology platform to the researchers and OHSU and look forward to working together in the pursuit of the novel therapeutic options for those fighting cancer.”


About Eric Lefkofsky

Lefkofsky was born in Southfield, Michigan. He and his wife Liz have been married for nearly two decades and have three children. He graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with high honors and went on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School.


In addition to Tempus, Lefkofsky’s business venture repertoire encompasses several other companies including Groupon, Echo Global Logistics, InnerWorkings, Lightbank, Uptake Technologies and Mediaocean. Each business model is similar in that it focuses on introducing technology at scale to industries that previously did not have access.


Lefkofsky is also a philanthropist. He is on the board of trustees of the Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that is based in Chicago. He and his wife also founded the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, whose primary aims are the advancement education, fundamental human rights, medicine, art and culture initiatives. Both are also members of The Giving Pledge, where they have committed to contributing nearly half their wealth to philanthropic causes.


About the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU in Portland

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute has been the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center between Seattle and Sacramento, and it receives nearly one million patient visits each year. It has recently been awarded with the title of Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is the National Cancer Institute’s highest distinction. In addition to offering the latest treatments and technologies, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute also has a rich repertoire of research studies and clinical trials. With the new collaborative initiative, OHSU is one of a growing number of academic medical centers and hospitals undertaking cancer-focused precision medicine initiatives.

Read more in this interview with Eric Lefkofsky on Ideamensch.

Precision Medicine and Philanthropy: Meet Eric Lefkofsky


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