Material Transfer Agreements

The University of Iowa is a Signatory to the Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement

as of December 16, 2005.

What is the Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA)?

The UBMTA is a master agreement which serves to simplify the administrative handling of exchanges of biological materials. 

What does it mean that the University of Iowa is a signatory to the UBMTA?

The University of Iowa, including the University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF), and other institutions that have signed the UBMTA, can transfer materials under the terms of the UBMTA upon execution of an Implementing Letter for the particular transfer.  This will streamline the process for those participating institutions and expedite the actual exchange of materials i.e., eliminates the need for lengthy reviews.

When should I use the UBMTA?

The UBMTA can normally be used whenever there will be an exchange of biological materials within the nonprofit research community.  Click here to find the list of signatories to the UBMTA.

If you are requesting materials from another institution, you may want to first check the above list of UBMTA signatory institutions. If the institution you are working with has signed the UBMTA, you may wish to ask your contact to check and see if a UBMTA Implementing Letter may be used for this transfer of materials.

The UIRF, which handles agreements for sending materials from The University of Iowa, will also use the Implementing Letter for transfers to UBMTA signatory institutions. 

Who to Contact if you have questions about a UBMTA or Incoming MTAs?

See the Staff Directory, call 335-2123 or email DSP-Contracts@uiowa.edu.

Incoming Material Transfer Agreements

You have just read a journal article about someone’s research at another university or a company and you would like to use the materials in your research. Perhaps someone read one of your published articles and they would like to receive your materials. How is the exchange of materials handled? In the past and even sometimes now, the two researchers simply shipped the materials to each other. More likely, the exchange will be done with a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA).

Material Transfer Agreements came about because of intellectual property, confidentiality, and risk concerns of the institutions involved in the transfer of materials. Today most materials are exchanged with Material Transfer Agreements. An incoming MTA is sent to the University of Iowa by the institution providing the materials. The University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) sends outgoing MTAs to the institution requesting materials from the University of Iowa. The Division of Sponsored Programs processes and negotiates incoming MTAs in which UI researchers request materials from other organizations.

MTAs vary in length and complexity. A few MTAs are simple one page agreements that require no negotiated changes and are signed and sent to the providing institution. Other MTAs can be as long as seventeen pages (the longest we have seen) and extremely complex. Processing time can vary from one day to review and send the signed MTA from Sponsored Programs to the providing institution to an extreme case in which it took two years to complete the MTA. MTAs are negotiated documents that cannot be brought to Sponsored Programs and immediately signed and sent to the providing institution.

Once the MTA is received at Sponsored Programs, it will be reviewed. When reviewing MTAs we look for problems in the following areas:

  • Confidentiality - More MTAs are including confidentiality language. Oftentimes the providing institution will want the materials themselves to be confidential. This can create publication restrictions.
  • Intellectual Property - Our position is that if you make a discovery or invention, we will offer the providing institution an in-house non-exclusive research license and the option to negotiate an exclusive license, subject to the rights of the institution funding your research.
  • Publication - Sometimes providing institutions require approval of your publication(s). We will not permit restrictions on publication.
  • Liability - MTAs sometimes include language that asks us to assume liability for anything that happens, even if the providing institution is negligent. We are willing to assume liability for our negligent acts or omissions as provided by Iowa Law.
  • Use with Other Proprietary Materials - Sometimes you may want to obtain materials from company A and use them with materials from company B. If you plan on using proprietary materials from two different companies, but you won't be commingling the materials we probably won't have a problem. If you plan on commingling the materials from company A and B, negotiating the MTAs may be extremely difficult. Many MTAs contain confidentiality language and reporting requirements. If company A gives you confidential information about their materials or the materials are considered confidential, how can you report your research results to company B and not violate the confidentiality requirements of company A. If you make a discovery or invention, we cannot offer an exclusive license to company A and not to company B. The best we can do is offer each company an exclusive license subject to the rights of the other company and our research sponsor. Negotiating the MTAs for commingled materials will depend on the flexibility of the two companies involved. 

Other conditions imposed in the MTA can include:

  • A Receiving Party can use the Material(s) only for the scientific plan specifically approved by the Providing Party.
  • Disclaims any warranty regarding the fitness or use of the Material(s).
  • Restricts access to Material(s) and distribution to third parties.
  • Incorporates applicable laws and regulations regarding the handling and use of the Materials.
  • Proper acknowledgement by Recipient Scientist of the contribution of Providing Scientist in all written or oral disclosures

If changes are required in the MTA (they almost always are), Sponsored Programs will get in touch with the other organization and negotiate the changes. Once both parties agree upon the MTA language, the MTA is signed by a University authorized representative and the UI researcher and sent with a cover letter to the institution for signature. A copy will be sent to the researcher. After all parties sign the MTA, the materials are transferred.

Please note that Institutional Review Board (IRB or "Human Subjects") and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approvals must be obtained prior to institutional approval of the proposed MTA. Contact the Division of Sponsored Programs for IRB and IACUC information.

For more information about MTAs see:

How Incoming MTAs are Processed

Usually incoming MTAs are sent to the researcher requesting the materials. The researcher needs to do the following:

  • Read the MTA. The MTA needs to be reviewed for its adherence to generally accepted practices for the exchange of materials, and also to note particular and unique obligations. DSP will also review the MTA.
  • Attach the MTA to the DSP Non-Monetary Routing Form and include sponsor contact information and any sponsor instructions.
  • Submit the completed Non-Monetary Routing Form to DSP.

If you have questions, you may contact the Division of Sponsored Programs at 335-2123 or dsp-contracts@uiowa.edu.

Outgoing Material Transfer Agreements

Researchers should contact The University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) prior to supplying third parties with material(s) developed at The University of Iowa for the preparation of an outgoing Material Transfer Agreement. In some cases, a fee may be included in these transactions as warranted by the nature of the material(s) and the purpose of the transaction.

The University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) is responsible for managing Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) for outgoing materials used by University scientists and staff. The MTA fixes in writing the rights and obligations governing the distribution of biological or chemical substances owned or held by such parties to others. In exchange for granting the right to use the materials, the Providing Party places certain demands on the Receiving Party due to the proprietary nature of the material(s), the Approved Research Plan, or the nature of the transfer itself.

The Providing Scientist should first complete a UIRF MTA Routing form This one-page questionnaire requests information about the Receiving Scientist; the materials and their proposed use(s) by Recipient; on whether they were developed by Providing Scientist or obtained from another party; and on whether the material(s) may be part of a UIRF Invention Disclosure. Once the completed UIRF MTA Routing form is received by the UIRF, you will be contacted by a UIRF staff member who will then complete the Material Transfer Agreement. This Material Transfer Agreement will then be circulated to all parties for execution prior to any transfer of materials.

Send the above information and forms to:

Freda Stelzer
Licensing Assistant, UIRF
2685 UCC
(319) 335-4548