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Lab Boxes: The FIP project bringing learning to life

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The Hague • 3 August 2015

A new project in Malawi shows how a carefully selected assortment of basic laboratory equipment can bring teaching to life and widen career options for pharmacy students.

Its impacts are reported in a video released today by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP):

A lack of laboratory equipment in a number of pharmacy schools, particularly in developing countries, means that students are not able to gain much needed hands-on laboratory experience and this can limit their understanding of pharmacy practice and career choices. 

Known as the “Lab Box Project”, a pilot set up under the FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN programme offers a solution. Lab Boxes consist of just 24 types of item and are proving sufficient to allow students to conduct key experiments throughout the pharmacy curriculum, according to early reports. They make a cost-effective contribution to wider efforts to build a skilled pharmacy workforce. 

“Malawi needs pharmacists. In 2012 it had just 73 pharmacists and 174 pharmacy technicians for a population of around 16 million. There has been progress in that the first school of pharmacy opened in 2006 but a lack of resources has hampered learning and the acquisition of skills,” explains Jennifer Marriott, director of the FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN programme.

Each Lab Box costs US$99, and 50 were dispatched to the Department of Pharmacy, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, in September 2014. Reports from students and staff reveal how effective the Lab Boxes have been, allowing students to graduate with laboratory skills that could be used to deal with priorities such as detecting counterfeit medicines, assessing the quality of medicines, discovering and developing new medicines, and advocating for the development of national protocols and policies promoting good manufacturing practice.

Owing to the pilot’s reported success, pharmacy schools in Liberia and Sierra Leone have contacted FIP with requests for Lab Boxes. “Ultimately this work is all about helping to ensure sufficient coverage and skills of pharmacists around the world and there was no better place to start than in Africa, where healthcare systems can be fragile and pharmacists are so desperately needed,” Professor Marriott said.


Notes for editors


FIP Lab Box video Lab box demo Lab boxes in class

INTERVIEWS available with Professor Jennifer Marriott
VIDEO Watch FIP’s Lab Box video at

ABOUT FIP The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the global federation of national associations of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, and is a non-governmental organisation in official relations with the World Health Organization. With 132 member organisations FIP represents more than three million experts in medicines, and works towards the responsible use of medicines around the world.

MORE ABOUT UNITWIN The UNITWIN programme was conceived as a way to advance research, training and programme development in all of UNESCO’s fields of competence by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through the transfer of knowledge across borders. There are currently 69 UNITWIN networks. The FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN programme is the only UNESCO-accredited healthcare professional network. 

Mike Spijker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, FIP
Tel +31 70 302 1977



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