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Material transfer agreements and permits

Materials transfer agreements and permits

Materials Transfer Agreements (MTAs) are contractual documents used for the acquisition of various biological and research materials, and occasionally data, developed by nonprofit, government, and private industry.  Often these materials are a necessary component of a research project and are available only from a sole source.  The agreement defines ownership of the material, rights of the recipient and provider with respect to how the material will be used and responsibility for safety precautions. MTAs are most commonly used to send materials between two universities for collaborations or to provide materials for an investigator’s projects. Some biological material repositories or commercial vendors also require MTAs before certain materials can be shipped to the recipient.

To initiate an MTA, follow the work instructions for initiating a Task Request in ASU's Enterprise Research Administration system (ERA). For assistance with initiating a MTA Task Request in ERA please contact

MTAs are reviewed and negotiated to ensure compliance, as applicable, with:

  • University, Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) policies, Federal Law and State Statutes
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB) – human subjects research compliance
  • Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) – biological material safety and compliance
  • Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) – animal-based research compliance
  • Export Controls – United States export control regulations
  • Conflict of Interest – federal and state conflict of interest regulations
  • Shipping – hazardous shipping regulations and advice on proper shipping methods/procedures

Fee-for-service agreements do not require MTAs.  Fee-for-services is when an investigator contracts with an entity for a service, such as when an investigator sends human blood to a contracted lab for testing. The contracted lab merely performs the service and reports the results back to the investigator. The investigator does not transfer any rights or ownership to the material or results to the contracted lab.  


Some materials may require permits to be obtained prior to transfer.  Examples of the most common permits required are:

Agency Types of Materials Requiring Permit
United States Department of Agriculture plants, organisms, soil, certain genetically modified organisms
Centers for Disease Control select agent movement, importation of infectious* agents
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service endangered or restricted species or samples

Samples are considered infectious unless proven otherwise. For example, water from a lake would be considered to contain bacteria unless proven otherwise.

Permits may be required for either import or export, and in some cases are necessary for interstate transport of material.  The length of time it takes to obtain a permit can vary depending on the agency or government and the type of permit needed.  It is the responsibility of the investigator to obtain and maintain the proper permits.  Permits should be available for inspection upon request.  

Work on tribal land, or with material obtained from tribal land, requires a cultural review in order to obtain permission from the tribe. Contact us for assistance.

Additional Resource

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) can also provide assistance when transferring materials:

  • Safety procedures, material handling, and permits for infectious substances -
  • Shipping procedures and requirements – (480)965-1823
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