Eric Lefkofsky believes artificial intelligence will find its highest calling in cancer treatment

Eric Lefkofsky has been busy the last decade. After founding volume-discount internet startup Groupon, he’s gone on to create a string of highly successful internet ventures, making him one of the youngest tech billionaires in the country and a noted philanthropist. But after his wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, Lefkofsky decided to dedicate his time to a new startup venture. The company, Tempus, would be dedicated to development of systems that can make sense of the huge reams of data that potentially contain useful patient info and present that information in a digestible way to oncologists, raising the likelihood of a successful treatment for their patients.

Overwhelming quantities of data

The cheap sequencing of the human genome has made genomic data both extremely accessible and overwhelmingly large. It is now possible to completely sequence anyone’s genome, for just under $5,000. This represents a 20,000-fold reduction in cost from 14 years ago when the first human genome was sequenced. But this data also provides opportunities for deep and granular understanding of the ways in which patients respond to cancer treatments. With the right set of analytic tools, Lefkofsky believes oncologists will be able to custom-design completely patient-specific treatment regimens, within the next decade.

Furthermore, Lefkofsky believes that, within a few short years, the ability to sequence entire human genomes will cost just a couple hundred dollars. This, in effect, will mean that treatment of all diseases, including cancer, will be able to make use of the most exquisitely detailed information possible. Genomic considerations will drive the formulation of treatment regimens, giving a far greater understanding of what patients will respond favorably to what treatments and what treatments should be avoided with certain cohorts of patients.

Not only will this new, genomic-based framework allow for greater understanding of the disease processes and treatment response, it will be able to eliminate many of the current side effects that plague cancer treatment. Lefkofsky believes that the use of artificial intelligence algorithms in parsing genomic data will be one of the most beneficial areas in which that discipline will find good use.

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