A new easy-to-use legal tool that enables open exchange of biological materials was launched. The OpenMTA is a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) designed to support openness, sharing and innovation in global biotechnology.
Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) provide the legal frameworks within which research organisations define terms and conditions for sharing their materials – everything from DNA molecules to plant seeds to patient samples.
Use of the OpenMTA allows redistribution and commercial use of materials, while respecting the rights of creators and promoting safe practices. The new standardised framework also eases the administrative burden for technology transfer offices, negating the need to negotiate unique terms for individual transfers of widely-used materials.
The OpenMTA provides a new way to exchange materials commonly used in biological research and engineering, complementing existing, more restrictive arrangements. The OpenMTA also promotes access for researchers and individuals working in less privileged institutions and world regions.
Professor Jim Haseloff, University of Cambridge (UK), commented:
“The OpenMTA provides a new pathway for open exchange of DNA components – the basic building blocks for new engineering approaches in biology. It is a necessary step towards building a commons, a resource accessible to all, that will underpin and democratise access to future biotechnological advances and sustainable industries.”
The agreement was developed through a collaboration, led by the San Francisco-based BioBricks Foundation and the UK-based OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre, a joint initiative between the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre and Earlham Institute.
The collaboration brought together an international working group of researchers, technology transfer professionals, social scientists, and legal experts to inform the creation of a framework that could improve sharing of biomaterials.