Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Open Material Transfer Agreement (OpenMTA)?

The OpenMTA is an easy-to-use legal tool that promotes exchange of biological materials. By removing blanket restrictions, the Open MTA aims to inspire innovation so that all people benefit from advances in biotechnology.

Who developed the OpenMTA?

The OpenMTA was developed as a collaborative effort led by the BioBricks Foundation and the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre with input from researchers, technology transfer professionals, social scientists, lawyers, and other stakeholders from across the globe.

How does it work?

Become a signatory to the OpenMTA Master Agreement. Then all that is needed to complete a transfer is an Implementing Letter, which specifies the materials to be transferred.

Can you give us some examples of the biological materials and exchanges that are covered by the OpenMTA?

Research materials such as DNA, plasmids, microorganisms, proteins, seeds, and tissue samples are covered. The exchanges can take place between individual researchers or different organizations, including transfers of research materials between non-profit and for-profit sectors.

Why use the OpenMTA (instead of no MTA at all)?

The OpenMTA provides provenance tracking and specifies terms for access, attribution, reuse, redistribution and nondiscrimination. Although a “no MTA” policy for transfers of certain materials has been adopted by some institutions, these policies typically state “if materials are transferred without a specific MTA, the transfer will be presumed to be made under the terms stated in the UBMTA even though no written agreement has been signed.” As a result, ambiguous or unnecessarily restrictive terms apply when there is no MTA in place.

Who can sign up?

Universities, research institutes, companies, community labs, funders and charities are all encouraged to sign the OpenMTA Master Agreement.

Who can sign the OpenMTA Master Agreement?

At most institutions, individual researchers are not authorized to sign MTAs on behalf of their institutions. Instead, MTAs must be reviewed and approved by an authorized institutional official. Accordingly, only individuals authorized to sign on behalf of the institution may sign the OpenMTA Master Agreement.

Must my institution be an academic or non-profit to become a signatory?

No, signatories to the OpenMTA may include companies, for-profit research institutions, and community laboratories as well as traditional academic and nonprofit institutions involved in biological research and transfer of materials.

Are we obligated to transfer all materials under the OpenMTA if we become a signatory?

No, becoming a signatory to the OpenMTA does not obligate an institution to make all materials available under OpenMTA terms. Instead, each institution can decide which materials they wish to make available under OpenMTA terms on a case-by- case basis.

The OpenMTA includes many of the same provisions found in other standard MTA templates. The OpenMTA differs from other standard templates only where needed to support the design goals – Access, Attribution, Reuse, Redistribution, and Non-discrimination.

Terms of TransferUBMTA
Academic or non-profit onlyYesNoNoNo
Use for research and teachingYesYesYesYes
Use for commercial purposesNoNoVariesYes
Distribution of materials or derivativesNoNoNoYes
Fees for preparation and distributionYesYesYesYes
Fees for royaltiesNoNoVariesNo
Compliance with laws and regulationsYesYesYesYes
Ease of use internationallyNoYesVariesYes
No warranty (e.g. third party rights)YesYesYesYes
Recipient assumes liabilityYesYesYesYes
Recipient indemnifies ProviderNoNoVariesNo

Can we recover the cost of providing materials under the OpenMTA?

Yes, the OpenMTA allows reimbursement of costs involved in preparing and distributing materials.

Can the OpenMTA work alongside other MTAs we have with collaborators?

Signatories are not obligated to use the OpenMTA for all transfers. Instead, individuals and organizations retain discretion in deciding which materials to transfer under OpenMTA terms so they may honor existing agreements that are already in place.