Eric Lefkofsky is no stranger to charitable efforts. In 2006, he and his wife started the Lefkofsky Family Foundation with the stated goal of “enhancing the quality of human life.” The Foundation focuses on four areas in pursuit of this goal: ensuring access to quality education, improving fundamental human rights, expanding cultural initiatives, and propelling innovative medical research. For over a decade, the Foundation has contributed financially to organizations that most effectively bring about these goals.
Recently, however, Lefkofsky has shifted his focus towards the last of these four goals. The reasons for this change in perspective are simple: the first is that Lefkofsky has experienced first-hand the necessity of bringing technology into the clinic, as people close to him have had to undergo treatment for serious illnesses, and the second is the scale of the issue. Lefkofsky cites analyses that find that the United States not only spends roughly three trillion dollars a year on health care, but that a trillion of those spent dollars are wasted. That’s a staggering number, and Lefkofsky believes that by incorporating newer technologies like machine learning and better molecular sequencing into our health care system, we can reduce our wasteful spending substantially.
It can be hard to imagine exactly what saving a trillion dollars a year would entail, so Lefkofsky breaks down the economics of how re-allocating that money would impact society. Apart from inadequate health care, one of the major issues affecting modern American life is the quality of education. Lefkofksky notes that we spend around $640 billion per year on education, and that increasing that number by 20% would substantially improve public schools.
Another problem Lefkofsky observes is our $80 billion annual budget on prisons. If we double this number, spending another $80 billion on programs to allow individuals from disadvantaged communities to integrate themselves productively in society and programs to educate and train inmates to help them join the workforce upon leaving prison, we could reduce levels of crime, Lefkofsky claims.
Related to that goal is Lefkofksy’s observation that it would cost only around $150 billion to invest in programs that would bring everybody over the poverty line, and $240 billion annually to cover our national debt without relying on taxpayers. In Lefkofsky’s mind, even after all of this hypothetical spending towards welfare programs, we would still have $400 billion dollars in surplus provided that we eliminate wasteful spending on health care.
And while all of these spending programs seem beneficial in and of themselves, Lefkofsky identifies some of the secondary effects this spending has that makes his vision seem even more enticing. He claims that the combination of an extra million productive Americans whose lives were saved by access to better health care, a more educated population, fewer people in jail, and the elimination of poverty would augment the GDP by $500-600 billion annually.
With this line of reasoning, Lefkofksky’s decision to focus his efforts on breakthroughs in medicine seems less like a repudiation of the principles he and his wife envisioned upon the creation of the Lefkofksky Foundation and more like a smarter, more effective way to enhance the quality of human life. Maximizing the power of our health care system, Lefkofsky has decided, would have a positive impact on nearly all other aspects of society.
In addition to his philanthropy work, Lefkofsky has dedicated himself to helping society with his entrepreneurial efforts. Lefkofksy believes in results-oriented business practices, and so has committed himself to strategies that are designed to effectuate the best possible outcomes. In 2015, he founded Tempus with the goal of building a company that would help doctors make the most informed decisions about cancer treatment in order to improve patient outcomes. True to his belief in the power of advanced technologies, Tempus aims to help doctors by leveraging state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence implementations and a massive dataset of patient profiles and statistics about the outcomes of various treatment methodologies. Tempus has recently announced the development of a tool that is able to analyze the profiles of individual cancer patients and compare them with this dataset to help physicians learn from patients who came before.
Lefkofksky serves as a Trustee of Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago and received his Juris Doctor at University of Michigan Law School. Lefkofksy’s other business initiatives include co-founding and serving as a chairman of Groupon, as well as co-founding Uptake Technologies, Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics, and InnerWorkings.