Material Transfer Agreements: the basics

Material transfer agreements (MTAs) govern the transfer of one or more materials from the owner or authorised licensee (‘the provider’) to a third party (‘the recipient’) who may wish to use the material for research purposes.

Materials may include cultures, cell lines, plasmids, nucleotides, proteins, bacteria, transgenic animals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals, alloys and other materials with scientific or commercial value.

Most commercial organisations, healthcare organisations and an increasing number of academic institutions will only release materials if there is an MTA in place between the provider and the recipient. For the provider, this agreement provides control over the distribution of the material, enables them to restrict the use of the material to non-commercial research, and reduces the legal liability of the provider for the recipient’s use of the material. In addition, the terms of the MTA can help the provider to gain access to the results of the research, both for information purposes and for commercial exploitation.