Dr Chris Senanayake PhD has forged an enviable reputation as one of the science world’s most inspirational leaders. Here we learn about his career so far, leadership style, and industry leading innovations.

Dr Chris Senanayake’s exceptional 30+ year career includes some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry, including Dow Chemical, Merck, Sepracor, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstaGreenChem, TCG GreenChem and TCG Lifesciences. As a trailblazer for frontier science and technologies, he combines scientific knowledge and expertise with anunbridled entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen. He also has a clear gift for developing people; acting as a trusted mentor for other scientists and harnessing a global pool of talent in the process.

About TGC GreenChem, Inc.

Chris founded AstaGreenChem in the US, which became TGC GreenChem, Inc. in October 2019 with bases in Princeton South, New Jersey and Richmond, Virginia. TCG GreenChem offers a combination of experience, technological expertise, and industry knowledge.   TCG GreenChem, Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of TCG Lifesciences Pvt Ltd in Kolkata, India. The company’s vision is to catalyse the development of novel, effective and affordable drugs to treat unmet medical needs around the world. The mission is to create one of best global Innovative Contract Development Organizations (CDMO) that partners with the pharmaceutical sector and wider industries, delivering innovative, integrated, accelerated, and economical services through green, sustainable technologies with a global footprint. 

Through strategic partnerships with a select group of manufacturing companies in Asia and Europe, TGC GreenChem has already positioned itself as a Contract Innovator OrganizationTM with a unique ability to make drug manufacturing more reliable than ever.

At its state-of-the-art innovation centre, the company utilises cutting edge technologies in Catalysis, Flow Chemistry, Microfluidics (Green-Chemistry) and electrochemistry. The company offers help, so its clients gain a competitive advantage through a “First Time Right” approach.

Chris is the perfect person to carry these ideas forward due to his innate ability to connect the dots between scientific, academic and commercial perspectives; delivering groundbreaking products and bringing them to market in record time. 

The Journey to Global Recognition 

Chris was always an exceptional student, but Chemistry wasn’t actually his first choice. As a child his dream was to become a physics major, but there was only one space for a physics scholarship, so he decided to give that space to his friend, opting instead for Chemistry. 

This act of kindness turned out to be serendipitous, and he was quickly spotted for his talent in the area. He completed his B.Sc. Chemistry, Physics and Math with a First Class before moving to an M.Sc. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. 

While studying for his Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at Wayne State University, Detroit, he was put in the unusual position of supervising a group of two undergraduate and two graduate students in the development and design of new methodologies in organic synthesis. It was during this time that Chris’ talent for empowering and motivating others became really apparent. In addition, he completed single-handedly two complicated total synthesis of architecturally complex natural products in three and half years and earned his PhD. 

Leadership Style 

Chris’ management style is one of “Servant Leadership,” which focuses first on the needs of employees and customers. He is a firm believer in building a strong team culture where the unique skills and attributes of each individual are nurtured. His leadership style that’s all about positivity, focusing always on possibilities and good points and giving each person the space to grow and become the best possible version of themselves. 

Chris leads by example, treating others with respect, honesty, and sincerity, and follows the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Both have been huge influences throughout his life, at work and personally. Their ability to communicate messages with passion and integrity, kindness and humility were what set them aside from other great leaders. They were both great advocates for lifelong learning too – another core principle that Chris holds dear. His office is full of books and journals, and on an average day he’ll read many scientific publications written by other experts in his field. 

Chris’ approach to leadership is clearly working. He has directed many teams of scientists in the design and development of chemical processes leading to the commercialization of pharmaceutical drugs; acts as a senior advisor for the scientific and technical issues occurring in CMC (Chemistry Manufacturing & Control) and is a globally respected mentor. He has a knack for recognising talent, and many of his PhD students and employees have gone on to gain industry recognition in their own right.

His proven track record in delivering high complexity, high impact projects such as the blockbuster drugs Lunesta, Jardiance, Fomotoral and Desvenlafaxine has not only helped build his profile as a leader in his field, but also improved the lives of millions. He was also integral part of development of Crixivan; the one of the first effective treatment for HIV/AIDS that completely changed the prognosis for those affected by the virus.

The Drug Development Engine Accelerating Molecules to Medicine

Designing new molecules to be used in pharmaceuticals is a notoriously complex and time-consuming process that requires biologists and chemists to perform many painstaking manual tweaks. Even with expert knowledge there’s no guarantee that the resulting molecules will have the desired properties. 

The advancement of machine learning has made it possible to not only speed up the design process, but also to vastly improve accuracy. Designing and developing a new pharmaceutical and getting it approved by the FDA takes more than twelve years, with well-established companies averaging about ten years if you are lucky. Chris and his team use a model clear opportunity for the accelerated drug development by supporting the drug lead selection and decision process earlier on. This gives an accelerated market entry in turn reduce the cost tremendously. He and his team provide the following support to their clients: synthetic route selection with an “Ideal Synthesis;” establishing impurity profile early on; allowing for faster delivery of investigation new drug application (IND); enabling toxicity studies and Phase-I clinical supplies; and contributing to a steeper process learning curve, in anticipation of a rapid transition to Ph-II and beyond. 

Sustainability is also at the heart of TGC Greenchem ’s pioneering work. The geopolitical landscape has changed significantly since 2020, and the US government is creating policies to encourage companies to secure their own supply chains internally. The development of new technologies such as catalysis, biotransformation, electrochemistry and continuous flow chemistry (CFC) are playing an increasingly important role in energy efficiency across the board, from medicine to renewable feedstock. 

Chris explained, “These technologies are advancing quickly and are the tools of innovation; allowing companies to increase productions in a shorter period, with less capital. This means we can innovatively get drugs to patients faster than ever. GreenChem is at the forefront of this paradigm shift, not only because of our technologies and scientific acumen but also thanks to our relationships within academia, government bodies and pharmaceutical partners. We have an implicit understanding of the ever-changing needs of the pharmaceutical and biotech industry – and how to meet them quickly and cost effectively.”

Collaborations and Publications

Chris works in close collaboration with some of the most well-respected educational institutions in North America. He has more than 450 publications in nationally known top scientific journals and 125 patents for sustainable manufacturing of chemical processes, and drug discovery and drug development arena and instrumental in delivering several multi billion-dollar drugs in an accelerated manner to the market.  

He received the prestigious Swiss Siegfried Gold Medal Award for development of practical processes for APIs and Process Chemistry via the use of sustainable and green manufacturing processes, in 2010. He serves as a Board of Editors of Organic Synthesis, Advance Synthesis of Catalysis, Organic Process Research and Development, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry and Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry. 

He has given more than 150 lectures at prestigious conferences and universities and recently been an invited speaker at the Behringer Simon Lecture at ETH Zurich to talk about Important Asymmetric and Catalytic Transformations for Drug Development. He has one of the highest H-index (68) in the Pharma and Chemical Industry. 

His company partnership with the Medicine for All Institute (M4ALL) – VCU (established by Professor Frank Gupton) and support the Bill Gates Foundation to make life saving drugs available to all. In addition, TCG GreenChem closely works with M4ALL and Phlow corporation, and National Institutes of Health. He is a regular collaborator with some of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest players. To find out more visit https://tcggreenchem.com/