Billionaire Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus Raises $200 Million To Bring Personalized Medicine To New Diseases

On the surface, Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus sounds much like every other AI-powered personalized medicine company. “We try to infuse as much data and technology as we can into the diagnosis itself,” Lefkofsky says, which could be said by the founder of any number of new healthcare companies.. But what makes Tempus different is that it is quickly branching out, moving from a focus on cancer to additional programs including mental health, infectious diseases, cardiology and soon diabetes. “We’re focused on those disease areas that are the most deadly,” Lefkofsky says. 

Now, the billionaire founder has an additional $200 million to reach that goal. The Chicago-based company announced the series G-2 round on Thursday, which includes a massive valuation of $8.1 billion. Lefkofsky, the founder of multiple companies including Groupon, also saw his net worth rise from the financing, from an estimated $3.2 billion to an estimated $4.2 billion.

Tempus is “trying to disrupt a very large industry that is very complex,” Lefkofsky says, “we’ve known it was going to cost a lot of money to see our business model to fruition.” 

In addition to investors Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, Novo Holdings, and funds managed by T. Rowe Price, Lefkofsky, who has invested about $100 million of his own money into the company since inception, also contributed an undisclosed amount to the round. Google also participated as an investor, and Tempus says it will now store its deidentified patient data on Google Cloud. 

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“We are particularly attracted to companies that aim to solve fundamental and complex challenges within life sciences,” says Robert Ghenchev, a senior partner at Novo Holdings. “Tempus is, in many respects, the poster child for the kind of companies we like to support.” 

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Tempus, founded by Lefkofsky in 2015, is one of a new breed of personalized cancer diagnostic companies like Foundation Medicine and Guardant Health. The company’s main source of revenue comes from sequencing the genome of cancer patients’ tumors in order to help doctors decide which treatments would be most effective. “We generate a lot of molecular data about you as a patient,” Lefkofsky says. He estimates that Tempus has the data of about 1 in 3 cancer patients in the United States. 

But billing insurance companies for sequencing isn’t the only way the company makes money. Tempus also offers a service that matches eligible patients to clinical trials, and it licenses  de-identified patient data to other players in the oncology industry. That patient data, which includes images and clinical information, is “super important and valuable,” says Lefkofsky, who adds that such data sharing only occurs if patients consent. 

At first glance, precision oncology seems like a crowded market, but analysts say there is still plenty of room for companies to grow. “We’re just getting started in this market,” says Puneet Souda, a senior research analyst at SVB Leerink, “[and] what comes next is even larger.” Souda estimates that as the personalized oncology market expands from diagnostics to screening, another $30 billion or more will be available for companies to snatch up. And Tempus is already thinking ahead by moving into new therapeutic areas. 

While it’s not leaving cancer behind, Tempus has branched into other areas of precision medicine over the last year, including cardiology and mental health. The company now offers a service for psychiatrists to use a patient’s genetic information to determine the best treatments for major depressive disorder. 

In May, Lefkofsky also pushed the company to use its expertise to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The company now offers PCR tests for Covid-19, and has run over 1 million so far. The company also sequences other respiratory pathogens, such as the flu and soon pneumonia. As with cancer, Tempus will continue to make patient data accessible for others in the field— for a price. “Because we have one of the largest repositories of data in the world,” says Lefkofsky, “[it is imperative] that we make it available to anyone.” 

Lefkofsky plans to use capital from the latest funding round to continue Tempus’ expansion and grow its team. The company has hired about 700 since the start of the pandemic, he says, and currently has about 1,800 employees. He wouldn’t comment on exact figures, but while the company is not yet profitable he says Tempus has reached “significant scale in terms of revenue.” 

And why is he so sure that his company’s massive valuation isn’t over-inflated? “We benefit from two really exciting financial sector trends,” he says: complex genomic profiling and AI-driven health data. Right now, Lefkofsky estimates, about one-third of cancer patients have their tumors sequenced in three years. Soon, he says, that number will increase to two-thirds of patients getting their tumors sequenced multiple times a year. “The space itself is very exciting,” he says, “we think it will grow dramatically.” Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Leah Rosenbaum

Leah Rosenbaum

I am the assistant editor of healthcare and science at Forbes. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s of Journalism and a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialty in infectious disease. Before that, I was at Johns Hopkins University where I double-majored in writing and public health. I’ve written articles for STAT, Vice, Science News, HealthNewsReview and other publications. At Forbes, I cover all aspects of health, from disease outbreaks to biotech startups.

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Eric Lefkofsky

To impact the nearly 1.7 million Americans who will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and CEO of Tempus, discusses with Matter CEO Steven Collens how he is applying his disruptive-technology expertise to create an operating system to battle cancer. (November 29, 2016)

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Why Is the Coronavirus Outbreak So Bad in Italy?

On Monday, Italy placed its 60 million residents under lockdown, as the number of cases of the COVID-19 virus throughout the country continues to rise.

In less than a month, Italy has gone from having only three cases of the coronavirus to having the highest number of cases and deaths outside of China, with 463 deaths and at least 9, 172 of people infected throughout all 20 regions of the country. The number of cases rose by 50% on March 8 alone. Italy also faces an above average mortality rate of 4%.

“We all must give something up for the good of Italy,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a televised address on Monday while announcing the nationwide lockdown. “There is no more time.”

The nationwide lockdown is expected to have major economic repercussions on the country, where growth was already stagnating. While the government has not specified exactly how long the ban will last, it says it will remain in place until April 3.

Keep up to date with our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking here.

Here is how the virus spread across the country — and why it is so much worse in Italy than any other European country:

How did coronavirus start spreading in Italy?

Officially it began in Feb. 20, when a 38-year-old man checked himself into a local hospital in the town of Codogno in Lombardy. He tested positive with the virus, becoming the first recorded patient with the COVID-19 virus in Italy.

Yet some health officials believe that the virus arrived in Italy long before the first case was discovered. “The virus had probably been circulating for quite some time,” Flavia Riccardo, a researcher in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Italian National Institute of Health tells TIME. “This happened right when we were having our peak of influenza and people were presenting with influenza symptoms.”

Before the first case was reported, there was an unusually high number of pneumonia cases recorded at a hospital in Codogno in northern Italy, the head of the emergency ward Stefano Paglia told the newspaper La Repubblica, suggesting it is possible patients with the virus were treated as if they had a seasonal flu. Health facilities hosting these patients could have become sites for infection, helping proliferate the spread of the virus.

The northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, have been most affected by the outbreak. 85% of infected patients are in the region which is home to 92% of deaths so far. But the virus has been confirmed in all 20 regions of the country.

Why does Italy have such a high number of cases and deaths?

Because the virus spread undetected, some officials believe this is the reason for such a high number of cases in the country. “This started unnoticed which means by the time we realized it, there were a lot of transmission chains happening,” Riccardo says, noting that this may be why Italy has seen such a high number of cases.

Some officials also believe Italy, which has already tested over 42, 000 people, may have a higher number of cases as a result of performing more rigorous tests than their European counterparts.

Italy, however, is also reporting an above average mortality rate at 4%. The average age of coronavirus patients who have died because of the virus in Italy is 81, according to the National Health Institute. Italy, which has one the world’s oldest populations, could be facing a higher mortality rate as a result of its above-average elderly population. “Italy is the oldest country in the oldest continent in the world,” says Lorenzo Casani, the health director of a clinic for elderly people in Lombardy told TIME. “We have a lot of people over 65.”

Casani also suggests the mortality rate might be higher than average because Italy is testing only the critical cases. “We are not doing enough,” he said.

Casani says that pollution in northern Italy could be a factor in higher death rates. According to a report by the Swiss air monitoring platform IQAir, 24 of Europe’s 100 most polluted cities are in Italy. “Studies have shown a high correlation between mortality rates from viral respiratory conditions and pollution,” Casani says. “This could be a factor.”

Was the Italian government prepared for the outbreak?

The outbreak in Italy has come as a surprise to some, given the stringent measures Italy imposed to protect itself from the virus. A month before the first case was reported, the Italian Health Ministry created a task force to manage coronavirus. Italy was the first European Union country to ban flights to and from China.

The travel ban, however, may have encouraged travellers to come in on connecting flights without disclosing their country of departure. Some experts also believe the virus could have entered the country before the government took action, spreading undetected throughout the country.

How is the government responding now?

The Italian government has taken the biggest steps outside of China to curb the spread of the disease.

Under the new lockdown legislation, people can be issued fines for traveling within or outside the country without a permit, though foreigners still can travel to Italy. All public events are banned and schools have been cancelled throughout the country. Public spaces, such as gyms, theatres and cinemas, have also been closed by the government. Individuals who defy the lockdown could face up to three months in jail or a fine of $234. The new rules prohibit inmates from having visitors or day releases, which set off protests at 27 prisons throughout the country.

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Many have applauded Italy’s actions. In a tweet, the Director-General of the World Health Organization commended Italy for its “bold, courageous steps” and for “making genuine sacrifices.”

Some infectious disease and public health experts, however, have concerns about the effectiveness of the lockdown.

“These measures will probably have a short-term impact,” John Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told Reuters, noting that the measures were “almost certainly unsustainable.” He added, “if they can’t be sustained for the long term, all they are likely to do is delay the epidemic for a while.”

How is the Italian healthcare system handling it?

Italy’s current national health service, known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), provides free universal care to patients yet remains under-funded. Investments in public healthcare make up only 6.8% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is lower than other countries in the European Union including France and Germany.

“The continuous cuts—to care and to research—are obviously a problem right now,” Casani says. “We were not prepared. We do not have enough doctors for the people. We do not have an organized plan for pandemics.”

With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, the Italian health ministry has doubled the number of hospital beds in infectious disease wards. The Governor of Lombardy Attilio Fontana has requested that universities grant degrees earlier this school year in order to increase the number of nurses in Italy. Yet some health officials fear these efforts will not be enough.

“Right now in Lombardy, we do not have free beds in intensive care units,” Casani says. He added that doctors “have to make this horrible choice and decide who is going to survive and who is not going to survive…who is going to get a monitor, a respirator and the attention they need.”

What impact will the lockdown have on the Italian economy?

The lockdown could push Italy into a recession. Berenberg bank, which before the outbreak estimated that Italy’s GDP would contract by 0.3%, now forecasts it will fall by 1.2% this year.

Lombardy, the region most affected by the outbreak, account for one-fifth of Italy’s GDP. The Italian tourism sector, which makes up 13% of the country’s GDP, is projected to lose $8.1 billion, according to the Associated Press, as a result of 32 million fewer foreign travelers.

Conte said on March 9 that the government would deploy a “massive shock therapy” in order to protect the economy. Italy’s Deputy Economy Minister, Laura Castelli said in an interview with Rai Radio 1 today that “mortgages, taxes, everything is suspended” as a result of the lockdown. The government has also created a support package of $8.5 billion for families and businesses affected by virus.

Some experts are concerned about the long-term implications of this spending.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Italy was already struggling with a public debt that is at 134% of the country’s GDP. In the Europe Union, countries are not supposed to have debt that is higher than 60% of their country’s GDP. “With the increased spending that comes with having to support people and businesses, the deficit might explode,” says Pepijn Bergsen, a Europe Research Fellow at Chatham House.

An economic slowdown in Italy, a country in the Eurozone, will have impacts on the rest of the continent.

“It is likely there will be a Eurozone wide recession this year,” Bergsen says, citing both an Italian recession and potential future lockdowns in other European Union countries as contributing factors. “It will be difficult for authorities to come up with any measures that would avoid a recession.”

Please send any tips, leads, and stories to virus@time.com.

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus:

By Mélissa Godin March 10, 2020

Source: Why Is the Coronavirus Outbreak So Bad in Italy?

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Giacomo Grasselli – a senior Italian government health official who is coordinating the network of intensive care units in Lombardy – explains the “critical” situation in Italy, brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak (Subscribe: https://bit.ly/C4_News_Subscribe) ——- Watch more of our explainer series here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Get more news at our site – https://www.channel4.com/news/ Follow us: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/Channel4News

Coronavirus Drug Update: The Latest Info On Pharmaceutical Treatments And Vaccines

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic poses a unique challenge for healthcare providers. There are no approved treatments for this disease, nor are there any approved vaccines.

That’s put big drug companies, universities and biotech startups on the hot seat. Since the 2003 outbreak of SARS, another variety of deadly coronavirus, they’ve been researching ways to handle diseases that can be produced by this family of viruses. When a coronavirus is capable of infecting humans, it typically attacks the respiratory system, which can make them particularly deadly.

It usually takes about 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine. The good news: leaps in technology, such as the ability to rapidly sequence virus genomes and to create vaccines out of messenger RNA, are speeding up the process of development. Developing new drug treatments can also take time – about a decade from discovery to getting on the market. But here technology also provides an advantage: new types of antiviral drugs and immunotherapy treatments, can treat a wide range of diseases. Which means that drugs already in the development pipeline or already treating diseases in patients could be useful to fight COVID-19, shortening the time it will take to make an effective medicine.

On this page, we’ll be tracking and regularly updating the development of new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, from research to testing to commercial release.

Gilead Sciences

For the past few years, Foster City, California-based Gilead has been developing Remdesivir, an anti-viral that’s shown promising results in lab and animal studies against SARS, MERS, Ebola and other infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The company has initiated clinical trials in the U.S. and China to see if the drug can be effective against the new coronavirus, and also working with governments to provide the drug as an emergency treatment in the absence of other options.

Status: Large-scale human testing

Of note: A World Health Organization assessment from February described remdesivir as the “most promising candidate” against COVID-19.

AbbVie

AbbVie manufactures the co-formulation lopinavir/ritonavir, which is used to treat HIV. It’s currently collaborating with health authorities to see if it can be used as a treatment against COVID-19, based on unconfirmed reports in China that its use was helpful in combating it. It has provided the drug to several countries, including China, as an experimental option.

Status: Working with health authorities such as the CDC, WHO, and the National Institutes of Health regarding testing.

Moderna

Cambridge, MA-based biotech startup Moderna has developed a potential mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine was developed in collaboration with scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The vaccine works by getting the immune system to develop antibodies against a “spike protein” found on the virus. A batch of the vaccine has been manufactured and delivered to the NIAID for a first round of testing.

Status: Phase 1 testing

Of note: The vaccine was developed, manufactured and sent out for testing just 42 days after the coronavirus DNA sequence was first published.

Johnson & Johnson

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal agency that helps develop countermeasures to biological threats, to develop potential vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The company is working to identify molecules in its libraries that might be effective against the disease. It’s also leveraging technologies that were used to successfully develop an ebola vaccine towards finding promising vaccine candidates.

Status: Investigation and development

Of note: In addition to looking at new therapies, Johnson & Johnson has sent batches of its HIV drug darunavir/cobicistat to China to test its efficacy against COVID-19.

Eli Lilly

Indiana-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that it is partnering with Vancouver-based biotech firm AbCellera to co-develop antibody-based treatments against COVID-19. The firms have already discovered “hundreds” of antibodies that might be effective against the disease, with the next step being to screen those for the most effective treatment candidate.

Status: Screening antibody candidates to move to testing phase

Of note: “In 11 days, we’ve discovered hundreds of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current outbreak,” AbCellera CEO Carl Hansen said in a statement.

Pfizer

Earlier this month, Pfizer announced that it had discovered several promising antiviral molecules that stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from reproducing in cells in the lab. The candidates are currently being screened to identify the best candidates to move into the development pipeline. The company’s Chief Science Officer, Mikael Dolsten, noted that the company might also consider exploring the combination of these molecules with antiviral treatments developed by other firms.

Status: Early development

Of note: On Friday, the company announced that part of its plan to combat COVID-19 would be sharing its expertise with smaller biotech companies and committed to using its excess manufacturing capacity to scale up any approved therapy or vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline

GSK has previously developed a pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform, a system that helps to improve vaccines by strengthening the immune response in patients who receive it. In February, the company announced it was partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to use that platform to improve potential vaccines to the new coronavirus. As part of that collaboration, it signed an agreement with the University of Queensland, Australia, which is developing a potential vaccine.  GSK has also partnered with Chinese pharmaceutical company Clover to use its adjuvant platform with that company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Status: Vaccines are still in early testing

Vir Biotechnology

San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology announced March 12 that it’s going to be collaborating with BioGen to manufacture antibodies that may have potential to treat COVID-19. The company has identified antibodies from people who recovered from SARS, and is studying to see if they might be active against the new coronavirus, as the two are very similar. Vir is also working with federal agencies to advance its research against other coronaviruses.

Status: Early stage

Of note: In February, Vir announced it’s working with Chinese pharmaceutical firm WuXi Biologics on this research as well.

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I’m an Associate Editor covering science and cutting edge tech.

Source: Coronavirus Drug Update: The Latest Info On Pharmaceutical Treatments And Vaccines

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