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Minneapolis VA Health Care System Research Service

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Materials Transfer Agreements

How do I obtain approval for a Materials Transfer Agreement?

Physical materials such as laboratory samples, specimens, or research animals used in VA-approved studies are the property of the VA. Investigators must seek approval from the VA before sending these items to a non-VA investigator or accepting responsibility for items transferred to the VA from other organizations. This remains true even when the materials remain under the control of the same investigator: If you wish to take materials from your VA research lab to use in your own university research, the VA must still grant permission for the transfer and the university must accept responsibility for the materials.

It is critically important that you as an investigator do not sign any Materials Transfer Agreement (MTA) sent to you by an outside entity, and that you do not initiate a new MTA without consulting the Research Office. All MTAs must be reviewed and approved by the organizations involved. This generally involves approval by legal counsel for each organization. Because the transfer of ownership is between the organizations, and not between individual investigators, a MTA must be signed by an authorized signatory, defined as an individual empowered enter a legal agreement on behalf of the organization. For the Minneapolis VA research program, the Deputy ACOS is the authorized signatory for standard MTAs. Investigators do sign the MTA, but only to acknowledge, not to approve the transfer.

When requesting a MTA, it is important to include the details that will be needed to obtain approval. You will need to be able to provide answers for the following questions:

  • What materials (type and quantity) are being transferred?
  • Is the Minneapolis VA the provider, or the recipient of the materials?
  • What is the full legal address of the other organization?
  • What is the name and title of the other organization's authorized signatory?
  • What is the name, title, and shipping address of the other organization's contact investigator (the person providing or recieving the materials)?
  • Is the other organization a for-profit entity?If yes, a standard MTA cannot be used - see below
  • Did the materials originate from human subjects? If yes, the Human Subjects Assurance number of the materials provider will be required.
  • What is the purpose of the transfer? A brief description of the research project is all that is usually required here.
  • Does the transfer involve payment of any kind? If yes, a standard MTA cannot be used - see below

Many organizations maintain a list of this information for reference. For Minneapolis VA Research Service institutional information, see the Contacts page. The University of Minnesota lists all institutional information here. If you need assistance finding this information for other organizations, you should request it from your contact person at that institution or ask the Deputy ACOS for help.

Basic Process for a MTA

Regardless of the type of MTA, the basic steps required are the same.

  1. Investigator makes a request for a MTA, either to send or to recieve materials
  2. Information required for the MTA is gathered
  3. The type of MTA required for the transfer is determined, and the party responsible for managing the MTA request (see below) enters information into a draft MTAform
  4. The draft MTA is routed to a VA STAR Attorney for legal review. If the MTA involves an international transfer, the U.S. Trade Office must also review the draft
  5. After review, the draft MTA (with any requested changes) is provided to the other organization for concurrence
  6. If the other organization's legal review team requests changes, VA Attorney (and U.S. Trade, if applicable) must again review the amended draft, repeating as necessary until all parties are satisfied with the terms.
  7. The draft MTA is routed for signature. The recipient organization signs first, then sends the partially executed MTA to the providing organization. Once all signatures are in place, the provider returns a copy of the fully-executed agreement to all parties.
  8. After recieving the fully-executed MTA, the investigator is clear to initiate or accept shipment of the materials.

Standard MTA

A standard MTA is appropriate when both parties are not-for-profit institutions (such as Federal agencies or public universities), and when no compensation or intellectual property rights are involved. Some companies providing research materials such as cell lines, recombinant DNA, and/or specially bred research animals may also use a standard MTA, allowing use of the materials without assigning intellectual property or ownership rights. Standard MTAs are handled by the local Research Office. The Deputy ACOS is primary point of contact to initiate or execute these agreements.

A standard MTA typically states that materials are transferred for a specific research use, that the recipient must acknowledge the source of the materials, and that the recipient cannot in turn give the materials to a third party. The standard MTA also may state what must be done with remaining materials when the research project is completed.

When VA is the provider, the standard VA MTA form must be used. Form templates are available on the VA Technology Transfer website, but our office prefers that you contact the Deputy ACOS to obtain the MTA template. The Deputy ACOS will prepare the document, review it for accuracy, and route the completed form for legal review and all needed signatures.

If VA is not the provider, the VA MTA form is still preferred if the providing organization will agree to use this template. Use of the VA template speeds review and approval by VA. If the provider requests use of their own form, the Deputy ACOS will ensure it is reviewed by VA legal and amended as needed.

Materials Transfer Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (MT-CRADA)

A MT-CRADA is appropriate when the provider or recipient is a for-profit entity, if the recipient is compensating the VA for the materials, or when the transfer involves intellectual property rights. In these cases, the MT-CRADA is necessary even if materials are being transferred at no cost to VA, or without VA receiving compensation from the recipient. In most cases, MT-CRADAs are handled by CVRE. The CVRE Grants and Contracts Manager is the point of contact for a MT-CRADA.

As with a MTA, the MT-CRADA requires review and approval by a VA STAR Attorney. The CVRE Grants and Contracts Manager will coordinate communication with VA legal counsel for the MT-CRADA.

Should CVRE determine that a MT-CRADA should not require thier involvement, the investigator will instead be referred to the VA Technology Transfer Program (TTP) for assistance with the agreement.

Licensing Agreements

In some cases, when sending materials from the Minneapolis VA to a for-profit recipient, it may be appropriate to use a licensing agreement rather than a MT-CRADA. Licensing agreements are handled by the VA TTP. The Deputy ACOS or CVRE Grants and Contracts Manager may refer the investigator to TTP as needed for these cases.

References and Links

For more information, please refer to RDC SOP "Transfer of Research Data or Materials".