Material transfer agreements

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

Materials can 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, and an increasing number of academic institutions, will only release materials if there is an MTA in place between the provider and the recipient.

An MTA offers a number of important benefits to the provider. It can:

  • give them control over the distribution of the material
  • enable them to restrict the use of the material to non-commercial research
  • reduce their legal liability for the recipient’s use of the material
  • help them gain access to the results of the research, both for information purposes and for commercial exploitation.

UCL has an MTA policy, available from the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website (you will need to use your UCL login). The UCLB team is responsible for approving, negotiating terms and signing all incoming and outgoing material transfer agreements on behalf of UCL (subject to certain exceptions set out in UCL’s MTA policy).

It’s important that we review all MTAs to make sure UCL doesn’t agree terms that may be in conflict with the provisions of research grants, fellowships, consultancies and so on. Among the important issues to be negotiated are publication rights, intellectual property (IP) rights and inventorship, governing law, warranties and indemnities.


Material transfer forms and guidelines

To send or receive materials from a non-UCL researcher, please read the guidelines and complete the forms below. If you have any questions about MTAs or the process for completing them, please contact the MTA team.

Send materials to a non-UCL researcher (outgoing material transfer)

Guidelines for outgoing material transfer MTA due diligence form – outgoing

Receive materials from a non-UCL researcher (incoming material transfer)

Guidelines for incoming material transfer  MTA due diligence form – incoming 

Outgoing material transfers

If you want to send materials to a non-UCL researcher, we’ll draft an MTA and send it to the recipient for review.

If the UCL materials are to be used for research of a commercial nature we’ll offer an appropriate commercial licence. Commercial research includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • contract research
  • research conducted at commercial businesses
  • consultancy
  • any research where there is a direct commercial benefit to the recipient or their employer, either now or at some point in the future.

This doesn’t include research conducted using charitable or internal funds.

If the recipient wants to commercialise the results of such work, they must inform us before doing so.

Incoming material transfers

If you receive an MTA for materials to be sent to UCL, we’ll review it as quickly as possible and get back to you about any problems. The most common issues are around indemnities, governing law and claims to intellectual property (IP) that may conflict with grant conditions or other obligations.

MTAs are legally binding contracts. As such, they can only be executed by an authorised signatory of UCLB on behalf of UCL.

We’ll always try to complete our side of the MTA process as quickly as possible. However, an agreement may need further negotiation and action from the other party which could take several weeks, especially if they’re outside the UK. Wherever possible, please plan your materials needs as far ahead as possible to avoid delays to your research.

UCLB doesn’t review MTAs that form part of a clinical trial. These are handled by the UCL Joint Research Office. If you need help with an MTA that forms part of a clinical trial or have any questions in relation to a clinical trial MTA, please contact the UCL Joint Research Office.