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Basic Laboratory Equipment: What Your Fledgling Lab Needs to Succeed

The novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed healthcare, pharmaceuticals and related industries to the spotlight. While these sectors have always been essential, suddenly, they have become the most important—because no other business now can function without assurance that the healthcare sector supports them.

As the world races to come up with medicines and vaccines that will stop this viral infection once and for all, medical and pharmaceutical labs are cast in a leading role. If you’ve been thinking of starting your own independent lab, now will be a good time to make a go of it. Don’t worry that you don’t have as much financial backup as the labs of big pharma companies, which get millions or billions of dollars for sophisticated equipment.

An independent lab like yours will need basic lab equipment for now to get you started. And most lab equipment suppliers have these devices available. With additional sponsorship from angel investors or independent private companies, you can get the ball rolling, so to speak. These are the basic equipment you will need to start your lab:


A centrifuge is a machine that spins objects around a fixed axis. It’s essential in separating fluids or liquids based on density. This piece of equipment is found in pretty much any kind of laboratory, from academic research labs to pharmaceutical labs.

There are 5 different kinds of centrifuge you can use, with each one having its unique properties:

  • Benchtop Centrifuge – used for harvesting cells, tissue culture, DNA/RNA research, and protein work
  • Refrigerated Centrifuge – used for collecting substances that quickly produce sediments, including chloroplast, yeast cells, and erythrocytes
  • Clinical Centrifuge – used for purifying proteins, viruses, cells, and nucleic acids
  • Microcentrifuge – used for spinning smaller samples, usually for bioresearch purposes
  • Vacuum Centrifuge – Often used in cell biology, drug development, genomics, or microbiology

Depending on your need and planned procedures, you may need one or all types of centrifuge. Align with your team to figure out what you need and why you need it.

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An incubator allows researchers to study various types of cells and cultures in a controlled, contaminant-free environment while maintaining a steady temperature. Most lab incubators also regulate humidity and CO2 levels so that researchers get the most accurate results.

Incubators can either be water-jacketed or air-jacketed. This reduces the risk of cold spots and ensures a steady temperature throughout the process. When choosing an incubator, always consider its size and capacity, as these two factors will determine the number of samples you can incubate at any given time.

Orbital Shakers

An orbital shaker is a machine that agitates, mixes, or blends certain substances in a controlled manner. Usually, researchers place substances in vials or flasks and then place them in the orbital shaker for agitating in a circular motion. Orbital shakers can also be used to culture microbes.

Orbital shakers may come with temperature control for studies that involve substances that require ambient and steady temperatures. Again, talk to your team to figure out the kind of shaker you need.

Refrigerated Chillers

A refrigerated chiller is a lot like your refrigerator at home. It keeps the things it stores cool by removing the ambient heat. However, unlike your fridge, laboratory chillers are more efficient at keeping temperature steady; it doesn’t spike or vary.

The smaller the chiller, the faster it can cool objects or specimens. But it also limits the number of items you can store. When choosing your chiller, consider the amount of samples or experiments you plan to handle.

Long before stay-at-home orders are lifted, medical and pharmaceutical labs will remain relevant—and extremely busy. Make sure your lab is ready for the big jobs ahead.

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