Since the signing of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, the licensing of technology from academic
institutions has become increasingly complex. Material transfer agreements (MTAs), intended to
protect the owners of discoveries while promoting the sharing of scientific material, have become
more human-resource intense and time-consuming. Technology transfer offices (TTOs), now present
at most academic institutions, are tasked with the goal of becoming a profit center while
simultaneously needing to facilitate the sharing of materials and data with other institutions, as
dictated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for federally funded research. As a
result, many TTOs operate without profit.
Decreasing the complexity of the MTA process is paramount to not only create a more efficient TTO, but also to make the
sharing of research tools easier so that the myriad of materials stored in laboratory freezers may be utilized by other
investigators whose research would benefit from their use. For-profit and nonprofit companies and organizations have
therefore created a variety of solutions to improve the MTA process. This article will discuss several of these programs,
including electronic MTAs, standardized MTAs and repository strategies, and highlight how they have facilitated the
sharing of research tools.