A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a contract that governs the transfer of tangible research materials between two organizations, when the recipient intends to use it for his or her own research purposes. The MTA defines the rights of the provider and the recipient with respect to the materials and any derivatives. Three types of MTAs are most common at academic institutions: transfer between academic or research institutions, transfer from academia to industry, and transfer from industry to academia. Each call for different terms and conditions.
The typical terms of an MTA are designed to protect the provider’s property interests in the material and, since most materials are experimental, to hold the provider harmless from liabilities that result from the recipient’s use. While many MTAs are relatively straightforward, particularly those between two universities, MTAs can contain terms that can negatively impact a research program. It is not uncommon to find embedded in the a draft MTA publication restrictions, onerous intellectual property terms, or terms that conflict with the grants or contracts that fund the project. Thus, it is critical that all MTAs be carefully reviewed and negotiated (if necessary).
As stated above, exchange of materials between academic (or not-for-profit) institutions is relatively straightforward. To encourage the process of sharing research tools between scientists, the National Institutes of Health and the Association of University Technology Managers developed standard language to simplify material transfers, issued as the Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA). The UBMTA is used for many transfers between academic institutions. The Weizmann Institute of Science and other academics (or non-for-profit) institutions that have signed the UBMTA Master Agreement can transfer materials under the terms of the UBMTA by executing an implementing letter for the transfer.
A Material Transfer Agreement is required in all cases whereby a scientist at the Weizmann Institute would like to transfer a material from their lab to a third party. All MTA's are initially handled by the Vice President for Technology Transfer.