Centre for Law and Genetics

Material Transfer

Material Transfer Agreements and the Genomic Research Commons

External Collaborators: Prof Tim Caulfield, A/Prof Tania Bubela, Prof John Walsh , Prof Richard Gold
UTAS Collaborators: Office of Business Development and Technology Transfer
Funding Source: ARC Discovery Grant
Commencement Date: 2014
Project Status: Current


Research Background

There are great expectations that research in the 'Genomic Era' (Collins 2010) will lead to the development of innovative products and processes in human healthcare, agriculture, the environment and industry. Government policy in many developed nations, including Australia, expressly supports this research direction. A feature of the early stages the biotechnology revolution in the 1980s and 1990s was an increase in collaborations between academia and industry, usually accompanied by transfer of intellectual property rights and essential biological research materials. Like intellectual property rights, exchanges of materials became increasingly formalised during this time, acquiring the generic label of Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs).

How these formalised MTAs operate in an era of open science remains unclear. In particular, it is not clear whether MTAs facilitate or stifle collaborative research in the emerging genomic research commons.

About the Project

This project aims to examine the history, development, use and impact of MTAs by Australian universities, research institutes, companies and scientists. This includes a plan to undertake a doctrinal analysis of relevant issues in contract law and intellectual property law. Finally we will make recommendations to law and policy to ensure ethical, efficient and effective exchange of materials nationally and internationally.

Interviews with Universities Completed
Interviews with Research Organisations Underway
Interviews with Bench Scientists TBA
Other interviews TBA.

Research Output

This project will produce recommendations on how MTAs may better promote exchanges of materials in the increasingly collaborative academic and industry contexts.

This includes how improvements may be made internationally such as recommendations for best practice implementation. A report will be prepared for relevant agencies, principally the ARC and NHMRC, and Australian industry organisations but also international organisations, including the NIH, OECD and ISBER.

We are also interested in the potential for an Australian standard MTA. If there is a finding that this would be useful, we hope to create such a document based on the data we have gathered throughout the project.

Publications 2014


PhD Opportunities

There are currently opportunities for further study in connection with this Project. This is an area which is of emerging interest to the CLG, for the successful candidate this presents an opportunity to work in connection with a broader project whilst developing your own research interests. Expressions of interest are welcome, either to the research team or contact us and we can direct your communication to the academic that best fits.