Erik Lefkofsky, one of the most notable and influential entrepreneurs in America has recently deviated from his current business ventures in an attempt to do something brand new. Three years ago he launched Tempus, a tech company whose aim is to use big data to innovate cancer research through technology. To date, the company has established many notable collaborations such as with many of the National Cancer Institute’s cancer centers across the country.
The goal of the company is relatively simple. By providing testing services for known cancer treatment, Tempus is able to collect a large amount of data about a wide variety of cancers and their treatments. This is typically done through sequencing of a patients’ tumors and germline DNA, as well as through liquid biopsy and RNA sequencing.
Once these large amounts of data have been compiled Tempus intends to use machine learning to ensure that all of these layers of information are working together with one another. When combined with the electronic medical record, Tempus hopes to be able to plot differences between treatments, results, and patient types.
There is currently a large amount of buzz surrounding the company. Big data operations such the ones done at Google and Facebook have shown just how tailored information can be based on algorithmic data. Netflix has taken this a step further and has use machine learning to determine very specific tastes in television programs. No two people are completely alike, but we are similar in enough ways to predict what might work best.
The only question left is whether or not this applies to cancer. There is no way to know for certain if the same type of algorithms that can predict consumer behavior can also be used to predict cancer treatment effectiveness.
Even if the ultimate goal of true machine learning and treatment of cancer is impossible, the results of these tests can be made available to doctors around the country. Rather than science be restricted to a single lab or group, data can be shared much more easily through Tempus. At the very least, this serves as a lesser goal for Erik Lefkosky as he develops Tempus as a company further.
Eric Lefkofsky’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/eplefkofsky/