Material Transfer Agreements

A material transfer agreement (MTA) is a legally binding contract established between parties (a provider and a recipient) to codify the legal terms of a transfer of tangible research materials or samples between the parties, including to establish the terms of care, use, the legal protections of the parties, and the intellectual property rights relating to the material. Materials that are typically shared under an MTA at the University of California, Santa Barbara include biological materials (e.g. plant samples, reagents, cell lines, plasmids, and vectors), chemical compounds, engineering components (e.g. chips, wafers). However, materials can even be/include software and/or data.

An MTA is typically used when an organization is providing materials as a public service to support academic or scholarly research. Consistent with this purpose, the materials are typically provided either for free or for a nominal fee to cover costs of preparation and/or shipment. There is often no formal collaboration between the scientists exchanging materials, although MTA terms can be embedded in a sponsored research agreement (or an MTA simultaneously executed) when the parties anticipate materials will be exchanged during a funded research collaboration.

Types MTAs

The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances handles MTAs from all entity types, not just industry. MTAs are considered “Incoming MTAs” when materials are being provided to a UCSB researcher from another organization, and “Outgoing MTAs”, when UCSB researchers wish to provide the materials to others. The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances are the only individuals with delegated authority to sign MTAs on behalf of the University.

Incoming MTAs

The typical terms of an MTA are designed to protect the provider’s property interests in the material and, since most materials covered by MTAs are experimental, to protect the provider from liabilities that result from the recipient’s use. Many MTAs are relatively straightforward, particularly those between two nonprofit research institutions. The Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA) contains a standard set of terms that are used widely between nonprofit institutions for material transfers and are encouraged for use as the basis for terms in MTAs with UCSB.

However, some MTAs can contain terms that can negatively impact a research program. For example, it is not uncommon for drafts of Incoming MTAs to contain publication restrictions, onerous intellectual property terms, or terms that conflict with the grants or contracts that may fund the research project under which the materials are planned to be used. This is particularly common when the provider is sharing sensitive or proprietary materials. It is critical that all MTAs be carefully reviewed by the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances before execution to assure the academic freedom of UCSB researchers are protected.

Outgoing MTAs

If a UCSB researcher wishes to share research materials outside of UCSB, an Outgoing MTA is sometimes, but not always, required. Instances where an Outgoing MTA is not required are:

  1. Transfers of materials to a nonprofit research organization for that organization’s internal research use, as long as the UCSB researcher providing the materials obtains certain written understandings from the recipient.
  2. Transfers of unmodified, naturally occurring, non-hazardous materials that do not contain any human or animal tissue (such as a sample of granite).

An Outgoing MTA is provided at any time upon request, and is required in many circumstances and is strongly encouraged if the materials to be transferred relate to a patentable invention. For full details of when an Outgoing MTA is, and is not, required, please see Section III of the Office of Research’s Research Circular E.1.

Addgene MTAs

Addgene is a nonprofit plasmid repository where researchers at an institution can obtain materials on deposit with Addgene by paying base costs for production and shipping of the material, and by entering into an MTA with Addgene and the provider institution.

The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances maintains an institutional account with Addgene in order to facilitate and enter into both incoming MTAs (when a UCSB researcher requests a plasmid from Addgene) and outgoing MTAs (Biological Material Depository & Distribution Agreements; when a UCSB researcher seeks to put plasmid materials on deposit at Addgene for sharing with the research community).

The terms of all Addgene MTAs are based off the Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA). Any other non-standard UBMTA terms may be incorporated into the UBMTA by way of ancillary agreements.

Compliance Considerations for Material Transfers

In many instances the compliance considerations for material transfers are similar to those encountered under Sponsored Research Agreements. However some issues and/or aspects of issues, are unique to material transfers.

Export Control

All transfers of materials into the United States as well as out of the United States need to be reviewed to ensure the transfers are done in compliance with US export control laws. The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances coordinates with the UCSB Research Integrity Office to ensure the MTA terms address export control compliance appropriately for the University environment in both Incoming MTAs and Outgoing MTAs. UCSB researchers are responsible for ensuring compliance with any directions provided by the UCSB Research Integrity Office with regard to the shipment and/or care and use of materials received.

However, please note that even if an Outgoing MTA is not required for a transfer of UCSB material to another entity, UCSB researchers still need to assure that any export control issues are identified and understood prior to transferring any materials outside the United States. Please contact the UCSB Export Control Compliance Officer for more information on export control compliance.

Data Security

Depending on the type of materials and/or data to be transferred and particularly if it is a dataset that is being shared as part of the material transfer agreement, the terms may require that certain data security terms are followed. See Research Data Security and see Data Use Agreements for more information.


The use of certain biological materials by UCSB researchers may require a Biological Use Authorization from UCSB’s Institutional Biosafety Committee. If biological materials are being transferred to UCSB under an Incoming MTA and require a Biological Use Authorization for the lab, the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances coordinates with Environmental Health and Safety’s Biological Safety Officer to make sure the appropriate Biological Use Authorization is in place prior to the UCSB researcher conducting any research with the biological materials.

Human Subjects

Depending on the materials and/or datasets being requested by a UCSB researcher, the research may be considered human subjects research. For instances where a UCSB researcher is requesting materials and/or datasets that may relate to human subjects research, the UCSB researcher needs to work directly with the UCSB Research Integrity Office to formally determine if the research is human subjects research. If the research project is determined to be human subjects research, the UCSB researcher needs to submit a human subjects protocol for review by the UCSB Human Subjects Committee (HSC). The UCSB researcher cannot begin the research project until the appropriate human subjects protocol is reviewed and approved by the HSC.

Animal Subjects

If an Incoming MTA covers the transfer of animals that are to be used in research, the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances coordinates with UCSB’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to make sure the appropriate animal subjects protocol approvals are in place. The UCSB researcher may be required to follow up directly with UCSB’s Research Integrity Office and/or the IACUC to address any animal subjects concerns related to the research prior to working with the animals on campus.

Stem Cell

Any research with human stem cells must be reviewed and approved by the Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee (SCRO). For any incoming MTAs covering the transfer of human stem cells, the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances works with UCSB’s Research Integrity Office to make sure the SCRO has reviewed and approved the stem cell protocol prior to the UCSB researcher beginning the research project.

Moving Forward with a Material Transfer Agreement

If you would like to move forward with a Material Transfer Agreement, please complete the MTA Request Form, which will provide TIA with the critical information needed to review and negotiate appropriate MTA terms. Please send the completed form to, and also take additional actions as noted below for either incoming materials and/or Addgene MTAs, as applicable.

For incoming materials, please also provide any draft MTA document that has been sent by the provider. The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances can also draft MTAs for incoming materials should the provider either not have a draft MTA or be interested in working from UCSB’s template.

For Addgene MTAs, researchers should proceed for signing up with an account with Addgene and selecting the University of California, Santa Barbara as their home organization. Researchers should proceed as instructed by Addgene for either obtaining materials or providing materials, and Addgene will loop in the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances when ready for the review and execution of an MTA. The MTA Request form should also be completed and submitted as prompted by Addgene.

Please note: Frequently, an investigator is asked to sign the MTA by a company or a collaborating research institution. However, an MTA is a binding contract to the University and the official signature can only come from those at UCSB who are charged with the task of reviewing them and who have been delegated authority to bind the Regents of the University of California contractually. The Office of Technology & Industry Alliances is the only office with authority and responsibility for the negotiation and execution of material transfer agreements.

Contacts for UCSB Material Transfer Agreements

For MTA Requests & Inquiries

Jenna Nakano
Material Transfer Agreement Officer
(805) 893-2367