A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legally-binding contract established for the transfer of biological research material between the Provider and Recipient institutions. The MTA defines and protects the intellectual property (IP) and other property rights of the parties of the agreement while permitting researchers to use the material.
An MTA is needed to document the transfer of the requested material, to stipulate the rights of both parties, to protect both parties from potential legal risks, and to help prevent the double-granting of IP. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for academic institutions and for-profit entities to establish MTAs for the above-stated reasons
The Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA) is a template agreement created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help expedite the MTA process and to which many U.S. academic institutions are signatories. TJU prefers to use the terms of the UBMTA Master Agreement or the UBMTA Implementing Letter.
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An MTA is required when any biological material is transferred into or out of TJU
When TJU is the Provider, TJU verifies the ownership of the material and the right to legally distribute the material. If the Recipient is a signatory of the UBMTA, TJU will propose to use the UBMTA Implementing Letter, which certifies that both parties agree to the terms of the UBMTA. If the Recipient is not a signatory of the UBMTA, TJU will propose to use the UBMTA Master Agreement, which states the full terms of the UBMTA.
When TJU is the Recipient, TJU verifies the funding source of the research project in which the material will be used, because all materials that TJU receives through an MTA are limited to academic use. Academic use is defined as research that is not funded by a for-profit entity. A Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) subcontract from a commercial entity is considered non-academic use and special approval is required from the material Provider. If the Provider prefers to use its own template MTA, TJU will review the terms of the Provider’s MTA, propose modifications, if any, and work with the Provider so that the MTA is mutually agreeable.
In some cases, the Provider is not the Owner of the material, meaning that the material was first created by a third party Owner institution, and the Provider institution only has the right to distribute the material. In such cases, the Provider may refer the Recipient to the Owner. It is then up to the Owner to establish an MTA with the Recipient, and the Provider may request to establish a simplified (Simple Letter) MTA with the Recipient in which the Provider does not claim ownership to the material.
MTA Processing Time
An MTA usually takes time to establish because of the time required by both parties to clarify potential issues (e.g. ownership, funding source), review, negotiate, and sign the MTA. The review and negotiation process may require a notably longer amount of time when the parties involved have difficulty agreeing on the IP terms of the MTA. For example, the MTA review process usually takes longer when the Provider is a for-profit entity because for-profits usually stipulate more restrictions in the terms of their MTAs (e.g. rights to potential IP, confidentiality, review of proposed publications). In addition, the MTA review process may take more time when the Provider is not the Owner.
TJU faculty member can help shorten the MTA processing time by providing OTT with a completed questionnaire. An equally important factor is to provide any background information which would aid the review process.
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