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Material Transfer Agreements

The transfer of materials and research tools is an essential part of scientific research. When a paper is published, the scientist must provide the material to fellow researchers in order for others to repeat the experiment and verify the results.  A material transfer agreement (MTA) is the legal contract used to define the terms and conditions for the exchange of materials.

MTAs are essential to protect:

  • Publication rights
  • Intellectual property rights
  • From liability to other parties

When the material is of a unique or proprietary nature, the provider may wish to control how the material is used and limit its further distribution.

An MTA typically sets forth rights to use the materials and may allocate rights to the results of their use.  Often MTAs address such issues as publication, limitations on the use of the materials, and the intellectual property rights of the provider and the recipient in inventions arising from the use of the material.

Some MTAs can be handled under the UBMTA, a master agreement that was developed by the NIH to simplify transfers of biological research materials. Institutions that have signed the UBMTA Master Agreement can transfer biological materials under the terms of the UBMTA by executing an Implementing Letter for each transfer.

Given that money is rarely associated with these transfers, MTAs may be perceived by some to be inconsequential transactions.  However, they are binding legal agreements that can impact a researcher’s current and future research.

MTAs are processed through the Office of Technology Transfer. In order for us to process your MTAs in a timely manner, please bring them to us as  early as possible, well before the materials are required, as some MTAs require time to negotiate.


What are the NIH’s “Principles and Guidelines for Recipients of NIH Research Grants and Contracts on Obtaining and Disseminating Biomedical Research Resources”?
What are types of MTAs for requesting or providing materials?
Under what circumstances are an MTA needed?
What MTA terms frequently raise problems?
Is it reasonable to charge fees for the transfer of material?
Are there other means of providing materials to others when the obstacle is time and effort?
Who has the authority to sign an MTA?
What is Rockefeller’s position on MTAs?

Further Questions?

For any further questions regarding Material Transfer Agreements, please contact Sam Linton.