January 2004, Issue 1

Material Transfer Agreements

Among the services provided to Tufts investigators by the Office of the Vice Provost is assistance in the transfer of inventions, be they ideas or materials, between Tufts and commercial entities or other academic institutions. The Office for Technology Licensing and Industry Collaboration (OTL&IC) oversees the University's intellectual property. Over the next months Research News @ Tufts will highlight different aspects of these IP transfer services. We begin with the frequently used but often misunderstood Material Transfer Agreement.

Although inventions are often patented, research materials do not always need the intellectual property protection afforded by a patent. When it comes to transfers of research materials between institutions, however, all exchanges should be governed by Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs). Academia and industry both use MTAs to set out an understanding of how the materials will be used and what rights each party will have to the results of research involving the materials. MTAs also determine who is liable for damages that could result from mishandling of hazardous materials.

Organizations view MTAs according to the direction of the transfer (outgoing or incoming) and the relation of the laboratories (academic-to-industrial or academic-to-academic).

Sending Materials to Outside Laboratories

Outgoing Industry MTAs: All materials going out to a commercial entity must be covered by an MTA provided by OTL&IC personnel. OTL&IC will work with the Tufts investigator and the recipient company to set up an MTA appropriate for their situation.

Outgoing Academic MTAs: To streamline the material transfer process, OTL&IC encourages Tufts investigators to use the NIH Simple Letter Agreement when sending material owned by Tufts to an academic institution, provided the material meets certain criteria. These criteria are outlined in the instructions provided with the Simple Letter Agreement found on OTL&IC's website. If your material does not meet the criteria, or if you have any questions about the Simple Letter Agreement, please contact OTL&IC Licensing Associate Jennifer Phend.

Receiving Materials from Outside Laboratories

Incoming Industry or Academic MTAs: Because MTAs create legal obligations for Tufts, it is important that they be reviewed by OTL&IC. Investigators should contact a member of the OTL&IC staff regarding MTAs for all incoming materials. Please be aware that lengthy negotiations sometimes ensue when materials are requested from industry, or when materials or funding from more than one nongovernmental institution are involved in the same research project. The various missions of different institutions can lead to conflicting expectations regarding publication and ownership of downstream materials and inventions. These expectations should be reconciled before work begins.

For more information on material transfers, go to


Tufts University, Office of the Vice Provost
Health Sciences Campus: (617) 636-6550
Medford Campus: (617) 627-3417
Copyright 2005 Tufts University. All Rights Reserved.

Please send questions/comments about this site to Webmaster.