Material Transfer Agreements

What is an MTA?

A material transfer agreement (MTA) is a legally binding contract established for the transfer of tangible research materials between organizations. MTAs define the rights and obligations for both the provider and recipient of the materials being transferred, and outcomes of the research using them, including:

  • Ownership of the materials and modifications
  • Permitted uses of the materials   
  • Ability to transfer the materials, modifications, and derivatives to third parties 
  • Rights to data and other research results obtained through the use of the materials, including the right to publish
  • Rights to inventions and discoveries resulting from the use of the materials
  • Reporting and confidentiality obligations relating to the use of the materials

Jefferson executes MTAs with government agencies, other academic institutions and non-profit organizations, and industry partners. 

Why are MTAs important?

MTAs protect the intellectual property rights of Thomas Jefferson University in the results of investigator research obtained using Jefferson resources. An MTA may also provide valuable protection for Jefferson against liability related to the materials being transferred, as well as for investigator rights to publish the results of research performed using materials received from third parties.

When is an MTA needed?

MTAs are required for the transfer of tangible research materials (mice, plasmids, human tissue specimens, cell lines, reagents, compounds, etc.) into or out of Jefferson in connection with basic research.

An MTA is not needed to:

  • Transfer tangible research materials into or out of Jefferson in connection with a clinical trial.  In this instance, a clinical trial agreement would be required rather than an MTA.  Please contact the Jefferson Clinical Research Institute (JCRI).
  • Transfer tangible research materials into or out of Jefferson in connection with a fee-for-service work.  In this case, a service agreement would be required rather than an MTA. Please contact the Office of Research Administration (ORA).
  • Receive tangible research materials into Jefferson that have been purchased from a third party vendor, unless the vendor requires an MTA.
  • Receive tangible research materials into Jefferson for use in human subjects. Please contact Jefferson Clinical Research Institute (JCRI) for such work.
  • Transfer tangible research materials into or out of Jefferson in connection with basic research collaborations, sponsored research, consortiums, and subawards, if such agreements already contain appropriate material transfer language.*

    *As these types of projects concern basic research, material transfer issues must be vetted and appropriate language included in an agreement if the project involves the transfer of tangible research materials into or out of Jefferson.  Ideally, the material transfer language would be embedded into the agreement for the larger project so that there is only a single agreement for each scope of work, as multiple agreements can complicate the ability to use the research results and any inventions arising from the work in the future.  However, an MTA can be executed separately if required by the specific circumstances of the project.

    The Innovation Pillar works in close collaboration with the Office of Research Administration – who has responsibility for collaboration, sponsored research, consortium and subaward agreements – on these matters to ensure that the contractual terms provide Jefferson with adequate protections for the work being performed, and that there are no conflicts in the event of multiple agreements.
  • Transfer non-public data into or out of Jefferson.   In this instance, a data use agreement would be required rather than an MTA.  Please contact the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA).  

Note: The above guidelines represent Jefferson’s policies.  When transferring materials to or from other organizations, Jefferson must also accommodate those organization’s policies to the extent permissible.  This may result in some modifications to the mechanics of how agreements are typically executed in order to satisfy the needs of all parties. 

How can someone request an MTA?

Thomas Jefferson University policy requires that only faculty members may receive materials via an MTA. If the requestor does hold this position, s/he may submit an MTA request on behalf of a principal investigator, but the certifications requested in the Agreements Portal intake form must be signed by a faculty member.  Any MTA requests that are received without certifications submitted or signed by faculty members will be rejected.

To obtain a material transfer agreement (MTA), please submit a request via the Innovation Agreements Portal here.  

Note:  Addgene requests do not need to entered into the Agreements Portal.  Please continue to submit those requests directly through Addgene. 

How long does it take to obtain an MTA?

The processing time for MTAs can vary widely, depending upon the provider, complexity of the MTA, and any additional factors that must be taken into consideration, such as the existence of other agreements (consortiums, funding awards, subawards, etc.) related to the scope of work under which the materials will be used.  For example, the MTA review process usually takes longer when the provider is a for-profit entity, because companies generally include more restrictions regarding rights to potential inventions, confidentiality, and the review of proposed publications, which may not comply with Jefferson policies or requirements for use of such materials in federally funded research.  These terms must be negotiated to the satisfaction of both parties, which can take some time.  Additionally, the MTA review process may take longer when the provider is not the owner of the materials. In this case, the owning institution must be contacted to provide permission for the transfer, and may not always reply quickly.

Filling out the MTA intake form on the Innovation Agreements Portal accurately and fully with all relevant information will always be the best first step towards a prompt MTA approval.

How does an MTA get signed?

Once the MTA terms are agreed upon between the provider and the recipient, the Innovation Pillar initiates and manages the signature process. The Innovation Pillar signs the MTA on behalf of Jefferson, and an authorized signatory of the other party usually must sign as well.

Please note that Jefferson researchers are not authorized to sign MTAs on behalf of the university.  MTAs must be submitted to the Innovation Pillar to obtain legally binding signatures.


Additional Questions

Check out our MTA FAQs for Principal Investigators here for additional information.