Material Transfer Agreement Guidance

A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is an agreement entered into by the parties to govern the provision or receipt of research material.  The specific form of agreement depends upon the nature of the material, the intended use, whether the recipient is an academic or commercial organization, and the consideration of any intellectual property interests associated with the material.  An MTA will address the rights, obligations, and restrictions agreed upon between the parties with respect to: 

  • Ownership of the original material and modifications
  • Recipient’s use of the material     
  • Recipient’s ability to transfer the material, modifications, and derivatives to third parties 
  • Rights to inventions resulting from the use of the materials
  • Rights to publish research obtained through the use of the materials
  • Reporting and confidentiality obligations

Please note that an MTA defines the terms and conditions for the exchange of materials between Duke and another party and does not include all terms necessary for the conduct of funded research projects.  Accordingly, an MTA is not an appropriate agreement to define the terms for the conduct of sponsored (i.e. funded) research at Duke even if that research also includes the transfer of materials to Duke from the sponsor.   

Incoming MTAs

Incoming MTAs govern the transfer of material from another organization (both non-profit and commercial) to Duke and are usually provided by the party providing the material. In order to ensure proper compliance with applicable Duke and federal guidelines and policies, all incoming MTAs must be submitted to ORC.  In order to aid ORC’s review of the MTA, investigators must contact ORC to request an Incoming MTA Submission Form, which is submitted with their MTA to ORC for review.

The time it will take to execute an incoming MTA varies depending upon the provider and the complexity of the provided MTA.  For example, some non-profit institutions, commercial organizations and foreign entities often use MTAs that contain terms which do not comply with Duke policies or government regulations or standards for use of such materials in federally funded research.  These negotiation times may vary from a few weeks to several months depending on the terms to be negotiated and the responsiveness of the provider.

Once the terms have been finalized, incoming MTAs will require the signatures of ORC’s authorized signatory and the providers authorized signatory.   

Outgoing MTAs

Outgoing MTAs govern the transfer of materials from a Duke laboratory to another institution for research purposes outside of Duke University. 

To enable ORC to draft an appropriate agreement, the Duke researcher must contact ORC to request an Outgoing MTA Submission Form and submit it to ORC for review.  Based on the information provided, the ORC staff will draft an appropriate MTA and forward it to the researcher receiving the material as indicated on the submission form.

The time it will take to execute an outgoing MTA varies largely depending upon the recipient.  For example, some non-profit institutions, commercial organizations and foreign entities often request MTA terms that do not comply with Duke policies or government regulations or standards for use of such materials in federally funded research.  These negotiation times may vary from a few weeks to several months depending on the terms to be negotiated and the responsiveness of the recipient.

Once the terms have been finalized, outgoing MTAs will require the signatures of ORC’s authorized signatory and the providers authorized signatory.   

Human Samples

Duke researchers requesting the transfer of human samples to, or from, Duke are required to use an MTA to aid Duke’s compliance with federal and institutional policies governing the transfer of human samples. Transfer of human samples will require review and either approval or exemption by the IRB, which must be initiated by the Duke researcher.  

Please note that Duke researchers are not authorized to sign MTAs on behalf of Duke  - the MTA must be submitted to ORC to obtain the proper signature.