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Material Transfer Agreement Guidelines

A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a contract that governs the transfer of tangible research materials between two organizations, when the recipient intends to use it for his or her own research purposes. The MTA defines the rights of the provider and the recipient with respect to the materials and any derivatives. Biological materials, such as reagents, cell lines, plasmids, and vectors, are the most frequently transferred materials, but MTAs may also be used for other types of materials, such as chemical compounds and even some types of software. As a general rule, University of Houston requires MTAs for any incoming or outgoing materials in order to monitor what materials are coming on campus, and what materials (and to whom) UH is supplying.

Faculty members coming to or leaving UH need to have an MTA in place prior to transferring any materials from/to other institutions such as plasmids, cell lines, animals, etc.

The chart below outlines the steps, the responsible office or person, and the time it takes to complete the request for submitting an NDA for review and execution.

Material Transfer Agreement document

Typically, for incoming materials, the entity sending out the material will require the use of its own MTA form. For the purpose of outgoing material transfers, UH has standard MTA agreements on the DOR webpage to cover these materials. Whether the material is incoming or outgoing, agreements of this type are negotiated by the Division of Research. 

University of Houston 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 UBMTA will be utilize to expedite the transfer of applicable biological materials

Incoming Material Transfer Agreement

An incoming MTA protects a researcher's ability to use and publish research, any existing and potential intellectual property and define the use of any accompanying confidential information.  The review of an incoming MTA ensures the agreement terms don't conflict with rights granted in other agreements associated with the research.

Outgoing Material Transfer Agreement

MTAs for outgoing material typically prevent the material provider from losing control over the material and its research use. If no agreement exists, then the recipient of the material has no legal restrictions on the use of the material, or on transferring the material.

Compliance Review

MTAs (incoming and outgoing) must undergo a compliance review to ensure that the appropriate compliance protocols are in place for:

  • Live animals - Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).
  • Human tissue and/or data - Compliance with 45 CFR 46 (and all other applicable federal regulations), and, if required, have protocol(s) reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • Hazardous materials - Biosafety compliance and, if applicable, have protocol(s) reviewed and approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).
  • Conflict of Interest (COI) – Review needed where the decision to undertake the research is based on receiving access to the material(s) from a non-governmental or industrial provider must follow Committee requirements for financial disclosure. 


Other Considerations:

Sending/receiving live (vertebrate) animals

All animal orders are processed through Animal Care and Operations (ACO) and require an approved IACUC protocol. 

  • Most orders from traditional/approved vendors (as listed in ACO's website) do not require an MTA since the University already has an Institutional MTA, if needed, and the terms and conditions are explicitly laid out in the purchase documents and the vendor's website.
  • All import/export requests utilizing non-traditional vendors, i.e., those not listed on ACO's website including other institutions, may need an MTA.
    1. Fill out the Non-Traditional Vendor Import-Export Form, found in the ACO website.
    2. ACO receives the form and forwards it to the Research Integrity and Oversight office (RIO).
    3. RIO reviews the request to determine whether or not an MTA is needed and checks to see if an MTA is already in place. Following are some examples (RIO will always review and make the final determination):
      • MTAs are needed for
        • Sending/receiving animals by incoming and outgoing Faculty (transfer of animals)
        • Sending/receiving animals from/to collaborators or other institutions (unless as part of a subaward and already covered in the terms of the agreement)
      • MTAs are typically not needed when:
        • The PI has contracted with a vendor to generate a new animal model. Please check with the IACUC office before executing the contract as there are some requirements set by OLAW when using PHS funds for these services.
    1. RIO will reach out to the PI for any clarifications and if an MTA is needed and there is not one already on file. The PI can also initiate this process by sending an email to

Ordering Materials from a Repository like the NIH AIDS Reagent Program

Some repositories require registrations and some require MTAs, and some require both. If you are registering to use a repository, or if you are ordering a specific material, and the repository requires an institutional signature, then documentation will need to be submitted to the Division of Research.

Transferring Export Controlled Material

Under U.S. export control laws, a license may be required from the Bureau of Industry and Security or the Department of Commerce for the export of certain materials. Examples of such materials include human pathogens, zoonoses, toxins, animal pathogens, genetically modified microorganisms, plant pathogens, radioactive materials, magnetic metals, propellants and ceramic materials. Anyone who is planning to transfer materials controlled by the Department of Commerce or the Department of State outside the United States, should work with the UH Export Control Officer, Sandy Brown, to obtain the required license. There are civil and criminal penalties for violating the Export Administration Regulations.


MTA Procedures

Steps Responsible Office or Person Timeline

Email MTA and the completed compliance questionnaire to and include other party contact person information

PI or Dept. Business Administrator (DBA)
Log the agreement for tracking purposes and route to the appropriate contracting officer and compliance Offices OCG  2 business days
Compliance review and approve for Human Subjects, Animals, Conflicts of Interest Office of Research Integrity and Oversight (RIO)

5-7 business days

(both compliance checks done in parallel)
Compliance review and approve for biohazard Materials Environmental Health and Life Safety (EHLS)

5-7 business days

(both compliance checks done in parallel)
Review and negotiate the terms and condition of the agreement as needed.  Obtain a determination from the VP for Research when there are terms and conditions that cannot be agreed upon OCG Contracting Officers 7-12 business days for standard agreements.  Non-standard agreements may take up to 15-30 days to negotiate.
When it is the other party’s agreement, UH and the PI signs first, returns the signed agreement to the other party,  follow-up for executed agreement and close the log OCG Within 2 days of receipt of signed agreement