Christoph Lengauer portrait
business of health
December 1, 2020

Breadcrumbs

Carey Alum Plays Key Role in Development of Cancer-Detection Tech

Why it matters:

Christoph Lengauer (MBA ’01) has been closely involved in the funding and development of a cancer-detection blood test created by Johns Hopkins researchers.

Article Highlights

  • The Thrive Earlier technology was acquired in October by a Wisconsin company in a deal worth up to $2.15 billion.
  • Carey alum Christoph Lengauer is a partner at the Massachusetts venture capital firm that led the investment effort behind Thrive Earlier.
  • He also has served as chief innovation officer and lead strategist for Thrive Earlier since its spring 2019 inception.

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In a deal valued at up to $2.15 billion, Wisconsin-based molecular diagnostics company Exact Sciences Corp. acquired a cancer-detecting blood test developed by a trio of Johns Hopkins researchers.

The efforts of the Hopkins researchers, working under the banner of the Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., were backed by more than $350 million from a group of investors led by Third Rock Ventures of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Third Rock partner Christoph Lengauer (MBA ’01) has served as chief innovation officer and lead strategist for Thrive since its spring 2019 inception. 

With Thrive’s technology, Lengauer says, “Minute amounts of tumor DNA can be detected in the blood often many years earlier than when a cancer is identified by symptoms. This spring we finished a study of 10,000 women which demonstrated that our blood test can double the number of cancers first caught by screening rather than by symptoms.”

As Lengauer explains, the involvement of Third Rock Ventures in this and similar initiatives goes beyond financial backing. “We ideate, launch, and build companies,” he says. “We only invest in companies that we build. Members of the Third Rock team not only serve on Thrive’s board of directors but also take on major operational and managerial leadership responsibilities in the company.”

“Minute amounts of tumor DNA can be detected in the blood often many years earlier than when a cancer is identified by symptoms.”

Christoph Lengauer, MBA ’01

The work is fulfilling, he says, because “we are not selling bottled water. We are making a difference in people’s lives.” Lengauer had already earned a PhD in biology from Heidelberg University when he decided in the late 1990s to enter the Johns Hopkins MBA program. “I was curious,” he says, “about how science interacts with medicine and business.” His MBA had a focus on medical services management.

“The process of getting my MBA was impactful as it opened up my mind and helped me see organizations and processes with an additional lens,” says Lengauer.

For more than 15 years, he also has served as an adjunct associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “I do not teach any formal classes but take any opportunity to interact with and mentor students,” he says, adding that he maintains close relationships with colleagues at the medical school, particularly Bert Vogelstein, Kenneth Kinzler, and Nickolas Papadopoulos – the researchers behind the Thrive technology.

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