Material Transfer Agreement

Sending/Receiving Chemical and Biological Materials

Outgoing Material
Biological materials—and in some cases other types of materials—may be proprietary. In order to protect both your publication and potential patent rights, the sharing, transmittal, and use of such materials should be governed by an agreement. Researchers who intend to transfer materials from their laboratory at Caltech to others, whether at other academic institutions, research institutes, or for-profit organizations, are urged to consult with a member of our OTTCP team. We will make every effort to put in place an appropriate Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) in the most expeditious manner possible, ensuring that your research and that of your collaborator(s) can proceed without delay. If your outgoing material is non-hazardous, not of human origin, not for human use, and the recipient is a U.S. academic institution, Caltech does not require an MTA for the transfer. If your material is covered by a Caltech patent or patent application, please contact OTTCP at to discuss the appropriate MTA form needed.

Incoming Material
When you request materials from other organizations, whether other academic institutions, research institutes, or for-profit organizations, you will usually be requested to sign (and have Caltech sign) an MTA sent by such organization. These MTAs contain provisions limiting your right to use the material and may contain provisions limiting your right to publish the results of your research and/or granting rights in the results of your research to the other organization. Therefore, whenever an MTA is received for materials to be provided to Caltech researchers by a third party (whether another non-profit or a for-profit institution), the receiving researcher should forward the MTA to a OTTCP staff member for review, negotiation, and signature.

When contacting OTTCP in regards to an outgoing or incoming MTA please make sure to include a description of the materials you are receiving or sending.

Please keep in mind the Principal Investigator must sign incoming MTAs to acknowledge that they have read, understood, and agreed to uphold their obligations under the agreement. The graduate student/postdoctoral scholar/technician/lab manager, etc. receiving the materials may not sign on behalf of the Principal Investigator.

Please refer all MTA requests to

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MTA?
MTA stands for Material Transfer Agreement. An MTA is used to transfer research materials from one entity to another.

Why are MTAs important?
MTAs define all of the rights, obligations, and restrictions of both the providing and receiving parties. These rights, restrictions, and obligations are specified in respect to issues such as ownership, publication, and intellectual property and permitted use and liability.

What types of materials can be sent or received using an MTA?
In general, most materials can be sent as long as the proper approvals are in place. The following are typical materials that can be sent or received under an MTA:

  • Biological Materials: antibodies, transgenic and knockout mice, cDNA, plasmids, reagents, proteins, recombinant proteins, vectors, human embryonic stem cells, etc.
  • Drugs from pharmaceutical companies
  • Data: access to databases, e.g. Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.
  • Computer software

Who can sign an MTA?
OTTCP has signatory authority on behalf of Caltech to sign MTAs.  The Principal Investigator must also sign incoming MTAs to acknowledge that they have read, understood and will uphold their obligations under the agreement.

Are there different types of MTAs?
Yes, there are three different types of MTAs at academic institutions: transfer between academic or research institutions, transfer from academia to industry, and transfer from industry to academia. Keep in mind, each call for different terms and conditions. MTAs between US academic and US research institutions are generally the simplest and quickest to process. 

Can the Principal Investigator charge a fee for providing Materials?
The Principal Investigator may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in preparing and shipping the samples.

Can I send materials outside of the United States?
Generally yes, but processing the MTA will take longer because OTTCP will have to get approval from Caltech's Export Compliance Office.

Who do I contact if I have questions regarding MTA's or if I want to send or receive Materials?
Please email or call 626-395-3066.