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Vol. 25 No. 2
March - April 2003

Clinical Chemistry & Laboratory Medicine

The International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) is an IUPAC Associated Organization, which has maintained a formal relationship with the IUPAC Chemistry and Human Health Division for many years. The two organizations have partnered on a number of projects, including one that resulted in the IFCC-IUPAC coding system of properties and units in the clinical laboratory sciences. To present a broader picture of IFCC activities, CI asked IFCC Secretary Renze Bais, to review for us the nature and function of this federation.

by Renze Bais


The IFCC’s primary mission is to serve the public interest in healthcare by providing worldwide leadership in clinical laboratory science to national professional societies, the diagnostics industry, governments, and non-governmental organizations. The Federation was founded on 24 July 1952 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002 at the XVIII International Congress of Clinical Chemistry in Kyoto, Japan.

Membership and Objectives

The IFCC is a vibrant and highly respected international organization comprised of 79 Full Member national societies of clinical chemistry that together represent at least 30 000 clinical chemists worldwide. In addition, the Federation has 35 Corporate Members from the diagnostics and related industries that supply materials and services to laboratory medicine, and 4 Affiliate Members that are local professional societies with significant numbers of practicing clinical chemists who do not have access to the IFCC through a Full Member national society. The Federation also establishes and maintains contact with individual clinical chemists in parts of the world where there is no professional body specifically concerned with clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine. There are five formally defined aims of the Federation:

  • to promote a vision of clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine that extends beyond traditional narrow perceptions of the field
  • to transcend the boundaries of a single nation, a single corporation, or a geographical, cultural, or linguistic group of nations, in developing the field of clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine
  • to provide a forum for standardization, in the broadest sense, at a high level
  • to disseminate information on "best practices" at various levels of technology and of economic development
  • to complement and enhance the activities of its members

IFCC achieves its aims by publishing information and guidelines relating to the education of clinical chemists, by defining principles, and by publishing recommendations for the standardization of analytical procedures and the interpretation of analytical results. The Federation enhances communication and personal professional development by promoting congresses, conferences, and workshops in clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine, and by encouraging dialogue with clinicians on matters of common interest. More detailed information on the aims and objectives of the Federation, its statutes and rules, and all other matters, can be found on the IFCC Web site. See description on page 27.

Organizational Structure and Operation

Much of the IFCC’s business is carried out by divisions and committees, all of which are accountable (see diagram) to the Council of the Federation through an Executive Board. This organizational structure ensures that the IFCC fully achieves its aims. The Council is the governing body of the Federation and consists of one representative appointed by each Full Member, Affiliate Member, and Corporate Member. Council meets at the triennial International Congress of Clinical Chemistry, but between Council meetings, the business of the IFCC is conducted by an Executive Board elected by Council. Any important matters that arise between Council meetings are decided by Full Member Representatives who vote by mail ballot on behalf of their societies. There are currently four divisions–scientific, education and management, publications and communications, and congress and conferences–each of which may have committees and/or working groups undertaking specific tasks or projects. All National Society Members and Corporate Members of the Federation may nominate candidates for the divisions, committees, and working groups, but members are selected according to merit and expertise, irrespective of nationality or other affiliation. In addition to the divisions, an Archives Committee and an Ethics Committee also report directly to the Executive Board.

(To See Larger Version, Click Here )

Working with Other Organizations

Over the years, the growth of the scientific reputation of the IFCC, particularly in the areas of standardization and reference materials, together with recognition of the quality of its educational endeavors, have led to extensive cooperation with other international organizations. The earliest such relationship was with IUPAC, with whom formal reciprocal relations were maintained at Executive Board and divisional levels until the year 2000. Throughout most of its history, the IFCC has also cooperated extensively with the World Health Organization (WHO) and undertaken projects on its behalf; the WHO, in turn, has helped the IFCC carry out some of its own projects.

In addition, the IFCC has actively sought to establish relevant contacts with international basic and applied science organizations to reduce duplicative efforts. There have been particularly productive arrangements with the International Committee for Standardisation in Haematology (ICSH), the International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis, the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the International Union of Immunological Societies, and the World Association of Societies of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (WASPaLM). An important demonstration, for example, of the usefulness of such collaboration was the 1972 ICSH-IFCC-WASP joint recommendation on nomenclature in the presentation of results. More recently (1999), the IFCC and WASPaLM issued a joint statement on "Principles of Laboratory Accreditation."

The IFCC maintains relationships with important non-governmental organizations, including the International Organization for Standardization, the European Commission-Measurements and Testing Program, the International Organization for Legal Metrology, the Council of International Organizations of Medical Sciences, the International Union of Physiological Sciences, and the National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards. The IFCC and the European Institute for Reference Materials and Methods have an important, special relationship in which they jointly produce reference materials. To all of these formal contacts can be added the informal, personal relationships that individual clinical chemists who serve on IFCC groups have with these and other organizations.

The IFCC also works with regional organizations, such as the Arab Federation of Clinical Biochemistry, the Federation of European Societies of Clinical Chemistry, the Latin-American Confederation of Clinical Biochemistry, and the Asian-Pacific Federation of Clinical Biochemistry. The relationship between the IFCC and these four regional organizations is perhaps best described as symbiotic, because on the one hand, whilst the IFCC has assisted and encouraged these organizations in their contributions to local clinical chemistry, the membership of the IFCC has been increased through the regional activities. Examples of what the IFCC has provided the regional groups include the Visiting Lecturer Program and a Masters Degree course in Clinical Laboratory Science at the University of La Plata in Argentina.

IFCC’s Divisions and Committees

The main working activities of the IFCC are carried out through its four divisions. The Scientific Division is the largest, with 6 committees and 14 working groups carrying out specific projects on its behalf. Much of the work of the Education Division is also carried out by committees and working groups (currently eight in all). During the 1990s, in recognition of the movement from print to electronic media, the IFCC formed the Communication and Publications Division whose role is to coordinate communications and publications throughout the IFCC. This division has been responsible for developing the IFCC Web site and has recently launched an ebookshop associated with the site.

Another type of communication, person-to-person, is the responsibility of the Congress and Conference Division. Its primary mission is to oversee the organization of all international congresses of clinical chemistry and to develop the IFCC General and Master Discussion Conferences. The division also supports and provides advice as needed to organizers of regional congresses.

In addition to the four divisions, there are also two standing committees reporting directly to the Executive Board. One, the Ethics Committee, was created in 2000/2001 so that our profession could respond to ethical issues raised by advances in genetics and the need for community education.

Corporate Member Support

For many years, corporate members have recognized the excellent achievements of the IFCC by providing financial support for a number of regular events and awards. The most noteworthy of these are the Master Conferences sponsored by Roche Diagnostics and the Beckman-Coulter company and the following five prestigious awards: the Distinguished Clinical Chemist Award and the Henry Wishinsky Award for Distinguished International Service, both sponsored by Bayer; the IFCC Award for Distinguished Contributions in Education, sponsored by Beckman- Coulter; the IFCC Award for Significant Contributions in Molecular Diagnostics, sponsored by Abbott; the IFCC-Roche Award for Significant Advances in Critical Care Testing; and the IFCC/EDMA Award for Evidence of Effectiveness of Laboratory Tests. In 2002, our anniversary year, recipients received their awards during the XVIII International Congress of Clinical Chemistry in Kyoto, Japan.


During its first 50 years, the IFCC has made a significant contribution to improvements in laboratory medicine. However, the organization is very aware of the challenges this century will hold, especially in developing countries, and is working closely with many national and international organizations to continue its role in improving healthcare throughout the world.

This summary of the activities of the IFCC has been largely taken from IFCC Celebrating 50 Years written by John Lines and Jacques Heeren and published by the IFCC in 2002.

For further information on IFCC, contact the office at Via Carlo Farini 81, I-20159 Milano, Italy. Tel: +39 02 6680 9912, Fax: +39 02 6078 1846, E-mail: [email protected].

Renze Bais <[email protected]> is IFCC Secretary. He works at Express Laboratory at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia.

> Also in this issue of CI, - presentation by Craig Webster

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