With Arterys acquisition under its belt, Tempus eyes big opportunities in medical imaging AI

Over the past seven years, Tempus built out capabilities in precision medicine and artificial intelligence to power drug discovery and genomic sequencing. 

Armed with $1.3 billion in funding over nine funding rounds, the company, led by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, expanded the reach of its AI-enabled patient data platform into clinical trial services, AI-enabled diagnostics and personalized medicine for cancer and cardiology. Tempus scooped up two startups in the past three years—clinical lab AKESOgen in 2019 and clinical trial company Highline Sciences in 2022

In October 2022, Tempus picked up $275 million in debt financing to scale its operations and capabilities.

Founded in 2015, Tempus says it’s built the world’s largest library of clinical and molecular data along with an operating system to make those data accessible and useful for providers to inform patient care. The company has grown to about 2,200 employees and works with more than 5,000 oncologists, according to Lefkofsky.

Last October, Tempus quietly acquired medical imaging AI developer Arterys for an undisclosed sum. The addition of Arterys will build out Tempus' arsenal of radiology and pathology-based AI applications.

The deal enables Tempus to integrate its two platforms, specifically Arterys' FDA-approved technology platform to deploy a suite of algorithms that support physicians in providing data-driven insights to inform patient care, according to the company. The startup built a handful of tools that use deep learning and other forms of AI to analyze a range of imaging data, including lung CT scans, chest X-rays and both brain and heart MRIs. Arterys has eight FDA-approved algorithms for imaging in areas such as neurology, oncology and cardiology. 

The integration of the two platforms also allows Tempus to provide physicians with a comprehensive patient view in its portal, inclusive of molecular and clinical data, pathology images and radiology scans to usher in what Lefkofsky refers to as "intelligent diagnostics."


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"Tempus has a mission of basically bringing AI to diagnostics broadly. Our goal is to make all diagnostics intelligent and to contextualize the findings of any diagnostic for a specific patient. We want to personalize diagnostics so that the insights that are being derived are actually specific and tailored to the person for whom the diagnostic was ordered. To do that, you have to basically combine lots of multimodal data, you have to combine a laboratory test result with other forms of data for that patient, whether it's clinical data, phenotypic data, demographic data, therapeutic data or imaging data, whether that's for a pathology slide or radiology scan," Lefkofsky said in an exclusive interview about the deal.

"Tempus over the past seven years has built a series of products that are fully built out in pathology and oncology, clinical data and molecular data, but we weren't as strong in radiology data. This was a natural acquisition for us, because it gave us a super talented team, a bunch of data, an installed base and a bunch of AI models that were already fully developed."

For physicians, the combination of molecular and clinical data, pathology images and radiology scans in one place enables a fuller picture of the patient when making treatment decisions. For hospitals and health systems, the integration of Tempus' tools can help with diagnosis, treatment decisionmaking and treatment response, and the radiology images also help gather longitudinal data to monitor response to therapies for patients over time, according to Tempus.

"We like to say we're in the business of making good doctors great doctors and great doctors super doctors. We want to basically ensure that every decision that is made is the right decision," Lefkofsky said.

Beyond expanding Tempus' capabilities, industry watchers point out that the deal marks one of the largest acquisitions of an AI vendor to date. The acquisition also signals the ongoing shift of AI beyond radiology use cases and its growing role in drug discovery and development.

With Arterys technology, Tempus will add new data modalities and capabilities to support research and the development of therapeutics. "To figure out how to develop a new drug or design a new clinical trial, you have to really take a holistic view to what's going to happen to that patient in the real world,"  Lefkofsky said, noting that medical imaging represents a less-invasive approach to understanding patient outcomes.

Life sciences and pharma companies are showing an increased interest in imaging AI. Bristol Myers Squibb is working with French biotech AI developer Owkin to design and optimize cardiovascular drug trials.

In the past two years, Tempus also has notched major partnerships to boost its work in drug discovery and precision oncology. The company has an expanded collaboration with GSK to enable the UK pharma to tap into its AI-enabled patient data platform with the aim of improving its clinical trial design, speeding up enrollment and identifying new drug targets. GSK paid Tempus $70 million upfront for three more years of partnership.


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Lefkofsky sees big opportunities to leverage AI in drug discovery, genomic sequencing and imaging. "We're going to look back at the last 100 years and realize how difficult we made it for physicians to figure out the optimal therapeutic path for their patients. We're now at a point where there is a series of background technology advancements like natural language processing that can basically construct a digital image of a patient's medical record and then use technology to figure out what's the probability of success of every decision a physician might make," he said.

He added, "Tempus wants to usher in that era to make sure that we get to a point in time where no one ever has an error in reading a radiology scan or reading a pathology slide, because you're taking the best of physicians and enhancing them with the best of technology, and when you marry the two you get some pretty amazing outcomes."

There has been some speculation that Tempus may go public. When asked about a potential IPO, Lefkofsky said there were no immediate plans and noted the current "fractured" IPO market.

"We're fortunate that we've raised enough capital that, unlike many of our peers, Tempus has never needed to raise additional capital in order to be self-sufficient. We're essentially self-sustaining now," he said.