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Material Transfer Agreement

What is a material transfer agreement?

A material transfer agreement (MTA) is a contractual agreement that allows for the transfer of materials to or from a hospital within Mass General Brigham.

These transfers may be with:

  • Academic
  • Non-profit
  • Industry collaborators

Materials may include:

  • Cell lines
  • Animals
  • Compounds
  • Human tissue specimens
  • Other

An MTA is required to ensure compliance with Mass General Brigham, industry, government, and non-profit policies, protect intellectual property and limit risk exposure to the hospital.

An agreement also ensures publication rights are preserved for the parties involved. Whenever in doubt, please contact the Transactional Affairs Group (TAG) of the Innovation Department.

Types of material transfer agreements

There are two types of material transfer agreements:

  1. MTA-Out: This agreement is used when a laboratory or principal investigator (PI) wishes to send materials to a third party from a Mass General Brigham hospital.

  2. MTA-In: This agreement is used when a laboratory or PI at a Mass General Brigham hospital wishes to receive materials from a third party that are not purchased. Note: Some purchases of materials come with Conditions of Use. In that case, please contact TAG for guidance on need for a material transfer agreement.

Mass General Brigham Innovation reviews, negotiates, and approves a wide range of research agreements. Agreements provide the terms and conditions that enable investigators to receive funding, research tools, and information from industry and other sources. In addition, the agreements articulate what investigators and the institution must promise the provider in the form of reports, intellectual property rights, and deliverables.

Request a new material transfer agreement

Mass General Brigham has instituted an automated process to request material transfer agreements via the Insight 4.0 system (login required). This system will guide you through the necessary background information needed by your assigned TAG Associate to review, draft, negotiate, and execute your request. Please reference the guides below on how to use Insight.

FAQs about material transfer agreements

  • Buy it: If the material is commercially available (i.e., you can buy it) and the seller asks you to sign a contract, please contact Supply Chain for assistance.

  • Receive it for free (or a nominal transfer fee) under a material transfer agreement: TAG within Innovation negotiates most agreements concerning research materials provided to you by another researcher or company. All requests must be initiated through Insight 4.0. For assistance with the Insight 4.0 process, please contact the Insight 4.0 Help Desk at

Transfer of human tissue to a for-profit entity will always require a material transfer agreement and should be transferred as part of a scientific collaboration between the providing investigator and the company. Such transfer is permissible only if:

  • It is part of a genuine research collaboration in furtherance of the hospital’s medical and educational mission

  • The hospital investigator intends to maintain an active, ongoing involvement in the company’s work with the specimens in an area of science that is of interest to them

  • The results of the study will be made readily available to the hospital investigator

  • It is reasonably likely that a publication may result and the investigator may freely publish

Mass General Brigham entities do not accept compensation for these human tissue transfers (except for documented preparation costs and shipping fees).

In most circumstances an investigator must have a finalized material transfer agreement, signed by an authorized hospital signatory and the recipient institution, prior to transferring any materials to an outside party.

A completed, fully executed agreement is the only way the hospital can protect the rights and interests of Mass General Brigham and yourself, as well as be certain the institution is compliant with its own agreements. If research materials are sent before the material transfer agreement is signed by both sides, there may be no restrictions on how the recipient may use the materials — such as for commercial use or to further distribute to other parties.

All requests must be initiated through Insight 4.0. For assistance with the Insight 4.0 process, please reference the attached instructions, or contact the Insight 4.0 Help Desk at

All transfers of human specimens, including whole blood, plasma, cell lines, etc., must first be approved by the institutional review board (IRB) (or a waiver provided by the IRB). Therefore, please be sure to obtain IRB approval prior to submitting a request in Insight 4.0 for sending out or receiving human specimens and include the IRB protocol number that has been approved in your Insight 4.0 submission.

An agreement, depending on its complexity, may require a few weeks to a few months to be finalized.

If there are several different sources from which you can obtain a material, try to pick a non-profit or academic entity. For-profit corporations tend to require longer negotiations.

Make sure the questionnaire in Insight 4.0 is completely filled out; specifically, remember to include a phone number and email address when listing contact information for the other side.

Be sure to attach any draft agreements received from the other side, as well as applicable information, such as protocol numbers for IRB approval.

Under Mass General Brigham policy, only an authorized official may negotiate and execute agreements on behalf of the hospitals. In addition, material transfer agreements often contain a license to intellectual property rights to another entity and as such, need to be fully vetted by Innovation to avoid taking on legal risk by the institution and investigator.

The transfer of any human tissue (i.e., clinical specimens, research specimens, and/or patient data) always requires IRB review, but an agreement is not always required.

As a matter of course, the transfer of human tissue to an academic institution or academic collaborator will not require one if:

  • You expect no compensation other than the costs of preparing and shipping the material

  • The specimen or data were not collected in a protocol or study funded by a company

  • The recipient does not plan to use the human tissue in industry-supported research

  • The human tissue has not been previously transferred to a for-profit company

In these circumstances, a letter agreement prepared by IRB is sufficient.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, material transfer agreement may be necessary.

For transfers that do not meet the criteria for use of the investigator template, please submit a request for an agreement, using the InfoEd process, as described above. For further guidance, you may refer to the IRB website.

Contact Innovation team

Please reach out if you have questions about these topics or need assistance with access to any of these forms or links.