Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs)

Definition and Purpose

Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) are contractual documents used for the acquisition of various biological and research materials, and occasionally, data, developed by nonprofit, government and private industry. Often these materials are a necessary component of a research project and are available only from a sole source, often industry.  Industry may view their materials as important proprietary resources, and may want to assert ownership of any inventions made with those materials, or restrict publication of unfavorable results. 

Universities will want to ensure that MTA terms permit full dissemination of research results, and do not conflict with other University policies.  Because of these differing views, the negotiations necessary to accommodate the needs of both parties can be time consuming.  The usual areas of negotiation relate to publications, use of the research results, and the ownership of the technology generated by the research.  Our University is a state-related entity that receives a large proportion of its research funding from the U.S. federal government. 

In order to ensure that MTAs meet University policies as well as the requirements of funding agencies, the University will review MTAs to ensure compliance with NIH policies, including the Principles and Guidelines for Recipients of NIH Grants and Contracts on Obtaining and Disseminating Biomedical Research Resources.

The Clinical/Corporate Contracts Services team handles both incoming MTAs, where the University is receiving research materials from other entities, as well as outgoing MTAs, where we are sharing the University's research materials with other entities.  The University of Pittsburgh requires an outgoing MTA (or another form of contract such as a subcontract) for University materials being sent out of our University.

Repository Deposits

To facilitate broad access to research resources, the University encourages its researchers to consider depositing University owned research tools into repositories to further distribute them. Examples may include entities like Jackson Labs or Addgene. Researchers who identify a repository of interest that will accept the materials can use MyRA to submit an MTA (direction of transfer = sending) to the Office of Sponsored Programs for such deposits. For questions on deposits, please call 412-624-7419.

Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA)

Our University 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 Clinical/Corporate Contracts Services team will utilize the UBMTA to expedite the transfer of applicable biological materials.  

Outgoing MTA or Collaboration?

When sharing research materials with other entities, it is important to understand the context under which these research materials are being shared. If our University's research materials are being shared with another entity that will use those materials for a research project of their own design in which our University has no intellectual or hands-on involvement, then this transfer would, most likely, occur as an outgoing MTA. The term "collaboration" can mean different things to different people.  From the perspective of the Office of Sponsored Programs, a collaboration occurs when we are sharing our research materials with another entity and will work together on a mutually developed project.  The agreement chosen for the transfer of the research materials is selected based on whether or not we are collaborating with the recipient institution as well as a multitude of other factors. 

The table below highlights some of the characteristics for outgoing MTAs and collaborations.

Slogan "Use Our Materials" "Let's Work Together"
Overview Sharing of our research materials with the recipient for recipient's research project Involvement by both parties, often in complementary ways Pitt's contribution: Hands-on research, data analysis, experimental design
Form of contract Streamlined More detailed
Publication Generally only recipient would publish results Both parties can publish, often initial publication of results will be a joint publication
Share back of research results with Pitt investigator Can be included, if desired by Pitt investigator Standard for collaborations
Bi-directional transfer of research materials No Sometimes, depending upon the project

Procedure to Initiate Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) Review

For incoming MTAs (as the owner of the research materials will determine the terms under which it wishes to share the material with our University), the PI/PI's department should secure the proposed MTA from the owner of the research materials.

  1. Principal Investigator (PI) creates and submits the request in the MyRA system.
  2. Upon electronic receipt of a new submission in MyRA, the Clinical & Corporate Contracts Coordinator will begin initial submission review and will contact the PI and the administrative contact listed in the MyRA submission if any of the required documentation is missing or incomplete. When all of the required documentation has been received, the submission will be assigned to a Contracts Officer for review and negotiation.  Clinical/Corporate Contracts Officers are assigned to a constituency of University departments. To find your Contracts Officer, view the staff Assignments.
  3. Once the terms have been finalized by the Contracts Officer, the agreement will be circulated for signature.
  4. Once the agreement has been fully executed (signed by all parties), a PDF copy will be provided to the PI and to the administrative contact listed in the MyRA submission.  The research materials covered by this MTA may now be transferred.

Documents Required for Submission*

  1. Completed submission in MyRA, created and submitted by PI
  2. Scope of work of the research involving the desired research materials
  3. Proposed MTA (if incoming MTA, Provider template) or request to use Pitt template
  4. Any of the following as applicable to this transaction and as requested by PI's answers on the MyRA submission:
  5. RBL approval letter
  6. IRB approval letter
  7. CORID approval letter
  8. hSCRO approval letter
  9. RSO approval letter
  10. IBC approval letter

* Subject to sponsor requirements and/or OSP procedure changes.

Template Agreements