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Material Transfer Agreement

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. Biological materials, such as reagents, cell lines, plasmids, and vectors, are the most frequently transferred materials, but MTAs may also be used for other types of materials, such as chemical compounds and even some types of software. As a general rule, UH requires MTAs for any incoming or outgoing materials in order to monitor what materials are coming on campus, and what materials (and to whom) UH is supplying.

The chart below outlines the steps, the responsible office or person, and the time it takes to complete the request for submitting a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA).

Steps Responsible Office or Person Timing

Email MTA and the completed compliance questionnaire to and include other party contact person information

PI or Dept. Business Administrator (DBA)
Log the agreement for tracking purposes and route to the appropriate contracting officer and compliance Offices OCG 2 business days
Compliance review and approve for Human Subjects, Animals, Conflicts of Interest Office of Research Integrity and Oversight (RIO)

5-7 business days

(both compliance checks done in parallel)
Compliance review and approve for biohazard Materials Environmental Health and Life Safety (EHLS)

5-7 business days

(both compliance checks done in parallel)
Review and negotiate the terms and condition of the agreement as needed.  Obtain a determination from the VP for Research when there are terms and conditions that cannot be agreed upon OCG Contracting Officers 7-12 business days for standard agreements.  Non-standard agreements may take up to 15-30 days to negotiate
When it is the other party’s agreement, UH and the PI signs first, returns the signed agreement to the other party,  follow-up for executed agreement and close the log OCG Within 2 days of receipt of signed agreement
When it is UH agreement, the agreement is sent to the other party who signs first. UH follow-up for the agreement, counter signed, return a fully executed agreement to the other PI (copy to the PI) and closes the log OCG Within 2 days of receipt of signed agreement

Material Transfer Agreement document

Typically, for incoming materials, the entity sending out the material will require the use of its own MTA form. For the purpose of outgoing material transfers, UH has standard MTA agreements to cover these materials. Whether the material is incoming or outgoing, agreements of this type are negotiated by the Division of Research.

University of Houston is a signatory to the Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA) Master Agreement, a contracting mechanism published by NIH on behalf of PHS to facilitate the transfer of biological materials between academic institutions. For institutions who have agreed to the terms of the UBMTA Master Agreement, it is not necessary to negotiate individualized terms for each transfer of a biological material. Instead, an Implementing Letter is executed, which denotes the biological material as well as the providing institution and receiving institution. Whenever possible, the UBMTA will be utilize to expedite the transfer of applicable biological materials.

Incoming Material Transfer Agreement

An incoming MTA protects a researcher's ability to use and publish research, any existing and potential intellectual property and define the use of any accompanying confidential information. The review of an incoming MTA ensures the agreement terms don't conflict with rights granted in other agreements associated with the research.

Outgoing Material Transfer Agreement

MTAs for outgoing material typically prevent the material provider from losing control over the material and its research use. If no agreement exists, then the recipient of the material has no legal restrictions on the use of the material, or on transferring the material.

Compliance Review

MTAs (incoming and outgoing) must undergo a compliance review to ensure that the appropriate compliance protocols are in place for:

  • Live animals - Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).
  • Human tissue and/or data - Compliance with 45 CFR 46 (and all other applicable federal regulations), and, if required, have protocol(s) reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • Hazardous materials - Biosafety compliance and, if applicable, have protocol(s) reviewed and approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).
  • Conflict of Interest (COI) – Review needed where the decision to undertake the research is based on receiving access to the material(s) from a non-governmental or industrial provider must follow Committee requirements for financial disclosure. 

Other Considerations

  • Ordering Materials from a Repository like the NIH AIDS Reagent Program
    • Some repositories require registrations and some require MTAs, and some require both. If you are registering to use a repository, or if you are ordering a specific material, and the repository requires an institutional signature, then documentation will need to be submitted to the Division of Research.

  • Transferring Export Controlled Material
    • Under U.S. export control laws, a license may be required from the Bureau of Industry and Security or the Department of Commerce for the export of certain materials. Examples of such materials include human pathogens, zoonoses, toxins, animal pathogens, genetically modified microorganisms, plant pathogens, radioactive materials, magnetic metals, propellants and ceramic materials.  Anyone who is planning to transfer materials controlled by the Department of Commerce or the Department of State outside the United States, should work with the UH Export Control Officer, Sandy Brown, to obtain the required license. There are civil and criminal penalties for violating the Export Administration Regulations.