By Heather Landi
Tempus, a precision medicine solutions company led by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, has snagged Highline Sciences to expand its capabilities into complex clinical research.
San Francisco-based Highline is a specialized, full-service clinical contract research organization (CRO) focused on oncology. The company manages and executes on early and late-stage clinical trials, applying a customized approach to each study.
The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition.
Founded in 2015, Tempus says it’s built the world’s largest library of clinical and molecular data, which is used to inform patient care, with an initial focus on cancer.
In 2019, the company launched its TIME Trial Network, designed to speed up patient enrollment specifically for cancer trials by using real-time clinical and molecular data to match patients to trials, and then rapidly open pre-qualified sites once a patient has been identified.
The company’s trial network was only one step in the process to speed up patient enrollment specifically for cancer trials, Lefkofsky, the founder and CEO of Tempus, told Fierce Healthcare in an exclusive interview.
“There were still a lot of logistics and administration that a CRO has figured out in terms of how to manage to actually get those patients enrolled. And we didn’t have any of that experience in Tempus. We began looking around the country to see if we could find a more conventional CRO who was innovative and shared our view of how to help patients and bring novel solutions to cancer,” he said.
“We decided Highline would be a perfect addition to Tempus to help us on this mission to not just use AI-enabled diagnostics to help route every patient to the right therapeutic, but actually assist physicians, if we can, in getting them on the right therapeutic,” he added.
Tempus’ acquisition of Highline Sciences will help to grow new and established business lines and enable the company to vertically integrate more clinical trial services to complement its existing CRO partnerships, Lefkofsky said.
“Joining forces with Tempus creates a unique offering for customers and new, innovative approaches to improving clinical research services and accelerating the development of promising therapies,” said Collin Williams, founder and CEO of Highline Sciences, in a statement.
Lefkofsky, a serial entrepreneur, had built a career as one of the most successful tech founders in Chicago when his wife’s cancer diagnosis in 2014 changed the course of his career.
He was motivated to launch Tempus a year later after he observed the healthcare system’s flawed approach to data as part of his wife’s cancer journey.
“I was just perplexed at how little data and technology were a part of her care,” he said. “I became fixated on why technology and data hadn’t permeated healthcare the way it permeated other industries.”
Seven years ago, next-generation sequencing was gaining traction.
“One of the most interesting things for me was how difficult it was for many oncologists, radiologists and pathologists to interpret those results and put it into clinical context,” he said. “We set out at the time when we started Tempus to try to just solve that problem-could we at least bring technology to these next-generation sequencing tests and try to make them more understandable and digestible by the physicians who were treating patients?”
Tempus says it’s built one of the world’s largest libraries of clinical and molecular data, and an operating system to make that data accessible and useful. The company developed an AI-enabled precision medicine software based on its collection and analysis of clinical and molecular data and enables physicians to make near real-time, data-driven decisions to deliver personalized patient care.
Tempus initially focused on cancer and ha snow expanded to focus on other areas of healthcare, including infectious diseases, depression and cardiology. The company also has added a collection of predictive algorithm laboratory-developed tests.
The company has scaled rapidly and now 40% of oncologists in the U.S. are connected to Tempus through sequencing, clinical trial matching and research-enabled partnerships, along with 50% of all academic medical centers.
The company now has more than 5 million de-identified research records to power scientific discovery to improve patient outcomes and more than 7,500 patients have been identified for potential clinical trial matching.
In December 2020, Tempus said it was valued at $8.1 billion after raising $200 million in equity financing and $250 million in convertible debt. Investors included Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, Google, Novo Holdings, and funds and accounts managed by T. Rowe Price.
The company has raised around $1.05 billion to date.
Bloomberg reported in November that the company was mulling a U.S. initial public offering with a stock-market debut as soon as the first half of 2022, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
Lefkofsky told Fierce Healthcare there are “no immediate plans” to go public, noting that the company is “well-capitalized.”
“In any capital raising event, you’re always watching the markets, which have been volatile as of late. But I think our core philosophy when it comes to going public and raising capital, in general, is to be good stewards of the capital to really accelerate this mission of bringing AI to healthcare in a way that’s sensible, logical and helps patients,” he said.
“If we think we could deploy another $10 million or $50 million toward getting into a new disease area or deploying a new solution, then we’ll seek to consider that,” he added.