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Material Transfer Agreements FAQs

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?

What are the NIH’s “Principles and Guidelines for Recipients of NIH Research Grants and Contracts on Obtaining and Disseminating Biomedical Research Resources”?

The “Principles and Guidelines” defines expectations for NIH-funded recipients when exchanging biomedical research materials and tools; they are available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-04-042.html. An FAQ regarding these rules can be found here.

Although originally issued as guidelines, they are now a condition of funding and arguably rise to the level of a contractual obligation. Under the Principles and Guidelines, scientist and institutions are expected to broadly disseminate tools that arise from NIH- funded research with as few encumbrances as possible.

Types of MTAs for requesting or providing materials:

  1. Academic/non-profit (easiest, takes the least amount of time; standardized forms exist)
  2. Non-profit but commercial potential (more involved than academic/non-profit; non- standard forms)
  3. For-profit/company (usually requires negotiation and takes the longest amount of time)

Under what circumstances are an MTA needed?

  • The material can be easily replicated or reproduced
  • The material and/or information is the subject of a patent application
  • The material or information has been licensed for commercial use or sale
  • The material is infectious, hazardous or subject to special regulations
  • The provider is concerned about potential liability
  • The provider wishes to obtain clear rights to what is produced from the material
  • The provider wishes to ensure that correct and appropriate acknowledgment is included in any publications regarding the use of the material

What MTA terms frequently raise problems?

Universities typically avoid terms that:

  • Restrict academic freedom, such as restrictions on publication;
  • Assert excessive rights of ownership in the research results or derived materials;
  • Ask for inappropriate indemnification by the university; and/or
  • Create conflicting obligations (with other sources of funds or materials).

Is it reasonable to charge fees for the transfer of material?

While the majority of MTAs occur without any associated fees, some MTAs do include a nominal charge to the recipient. This fee is generally calculated to offset the costs incurred by the provider in preparing and shipping the material (or animal).

Are there other means of providing materials to others when the obstacle is time and effort?

There are two ways to handle a time and effort problem, neither involving an MTA:

  • The materials may be suitable for deposit in a publicly- supported or user-fee-supported facility. For example, some cell lines may be accepted for the maintenance and distribution by the American Type Culture Collection, most plasmids can be deposited for distribution by Addgene, and mouse strains can be handled by The Jackson Laboratory; or
  • The right to make and distribute the materials at nominal cost may be licensed to a company that sells reagents to the research community. In this instance, the company becomes the provider, thus alleviating  the research from the task of distribution.

Who has the authority to sign an MTA?

All agreements that bind the university, including MTAs, must be signed by an officer of the institution having signatory authority. Agreements that are not signed by an authorized institutional official may not be valid and may make the signor personally responsible for any breach of the terms and obligations of the MTA. Additionally, since the researcher utilizing the materials is responsible for fulfilling most of the obligations under an MTA, it is recommended that he or she also sign the agreement, not necessarily as a party to the agreement, but as an acknowledgment of his or her duties under the agreement.

What is Rockefeller’s position on MTAs?

The Office of Technology Transfer will prepare outgoing MTAs and review incoming MTAs as a service to the research community.  We encourage MTAs to accompany material that is being sent out from Rockefeller that can be easily replicated or reproduced.

Further Questions?

For any further questions regarding Material Transfer Agreements, please contact Jenna Trimboli, CRCP, Contracts Administrator, 212-327-7091, jtrimboli@rockefeller.edu.


Contact Us

Office of Technology Transfer
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue, Box 138
New York, New York 10065

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