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Outgoing MTAs

Sending Materials to Other Researchers – MTA FAQs

Please note: the answers provided in these FAQs are by way of example only. They do not purport to provide legal or professional advice and may not be relied upon for such purposes.  Wherever a specific concern is encountered with a contract or issue, you should contact MILO.

What is a Material Transfer Agreement?

A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legal contract that governs the transfer of a material that is owned by one researcher or institution to another researcher or institution for research purposes.

Why do I need to use an MTA?

An MTA will protect your interests by clearly setting out what the researcher can do with your material and limiting the liability risks for both you and the University. For example, if you want to be informed of the results of the research or restrict the use of the material to a specific project, you need an MTA. Similarly, if the material is hazardous, infectious or subject to special regulation, an MTA will protect you against liability for having provided it to the researcher. Ultimately, McMaster requires all transfers of material either in or out of the University to be covered by an MTA. 

What is the process for getting an MTA in place?

The process for getting an MTA in place is as follows:

  1. MTA request submitted to MILO
    You should complete the online MTA (out) request form which is automatically sent to MILO for review.
  2. MTA prepared by MILO
    Based on the information provided in your request form, an officer from MILO will prepare an MTA tailored to your circumstances.
  3. MTA signed by both parties
    MILO will liaise with the researcher’s institution to finalize the MTA and have it signed by both their institution and McMaster. The Principal Investigators from each institution will be asked to sign an acknowledgment which indicates that they are aware of and agree to the terms of the Agreement and the conditions attached to use of the material being transferred.
  4. Material released to the researcher
    MILO will notify you as soon as it receives the signed MTA from the researcher’s institution so that you may provide the material to the researcher.

What can happen if I don’t use an MTA?

It depends on the circumstances, but in general, if you fail to use an MTA when sending out materials there can be significant adverse consequences for both you and the University. Without an agreement in place, you are releasing the material to the recipient researcher without any limitations or contractual rights or remedies. The recipient could send the material to other researchers and publish results regarding use of the material without notifying you or obtaining your consent. In addition, both you and the University could be exposed to liability for use (or misuse) of the material by the recipient. It can also complicate matters down the line if the researcher creates something using your material. For these reasons, it is essential that you do not send materials to other researchers without an MTA.  

What kind of information will MILO need to protect my rights?

An officer from MILO will work with you to ensure the MTA is appropriate for your circumstances. For this reason, you should inform the officer if:

  • The material is particularly valuable and you want additional protection covering things like ownership and rights to use.
  • The material is related to an invention or discovery
  • The material is particularly sensitive and you would like it to be kept confidential with limits on publication
  • You want to control how the material is used and who it is used by, such as by restricting student access.
  • You want to receive reports from the researcher on the results of their use of material

What sorts of regulatory compliance issues should I be aware of?

When providing materials to external researchers, there are many regulatory compliance issues which both McMaster and the institution receiving the materials needs to address. This is why an MTA is so essential. Common regulatory compliance issues relate to

  • Toxic and hazardous materials
  • Radioactive items
  • Animal materials or materials derived from animals
  • Human samples
  • Drugs

Who can sign an MTA?

As an MTA binds the University, it can only be signed by an officer of the institution who has the necessary signing authority. At McMaster, all MTAs must be signed by MILO’s Executive Director. The Principal Investigator may also be required to sign the MTA to acknowledge that they are aware of the terms and conditions attached to the materials.

Who should I contact if I have more questions about MTAs?

Please feel free to contact MILO if you have any other questions.