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 A Day in the Life of an Addgene MTA Reviewer

[9:01 a.m.] Ah, time to review some MTAs!1

[9:02 a.m.] 42 MTAs to review today? Gee, there has got to be a simpler way for all of these technology transfer offices and scientists to submit their MTAs to Addgene…

[9:26 a.m.] 27 implementing letters2 for one order?! That sure is a lot of signature pages for the head of the tech transfer department.3 And they’re an associate vice president, I’m sure they have better things to do with their time…

[9:45 a.m.] Almost there. I could use some coffee.

[10:01 a.m.] It looks like the lab manager has signed this MTA. Unfortunately, they are probably not authorized to sign legal documents that bind their entire university.4

[10:10 a.m.] OK, let’s check the name of the PI.5 Oops, they listed the name of their institution in the PI field!6 Time to email the recipient scientist…

[10:18 a.m.] Wow, that entire term is crossed out with pen…I need to forward this to our corporate counsel.7

[10:29 a.m.] This is the fifth MTA this tech transfer office has sent today! They and their researchers must be so busy with all of that paperwork.

[10:41 a.m.] This poor scientist scanned their MTA crookedly, and some of the terms are cut off. They sound like they’re in a rush to receive their research materials; they’re not going to be thrilled.

[10:50 a.m.] Oh no, the shipping address in the MTA doesn’t match what’s in our system for this order. I need to follow up with the order contact.8

Avoid all of the situations above!

By enrolling in electronic MTA approval with Addgene, you can:

  • Ensure that an authorized party always signs the MTA on behalf of your institution
  • Save time, energy, and work for your busy researchers and your office alike
  • Choose to approve certain materials automatically (optional)
  • Allow scientists to focus on their research
  • View all past MTA requests for your institution
  • Reduce paper waste

For more information, please visit our Information for Tech Transfer Offices page.

To enroll your institution’s technology transfer office in electronic MTA signing, or if you have any questions, please contact us: [email protected].


  1. Material Transfer Agreements, or MTAs, are reviewed by Addgene’s Office Team. For each MTA, we must validate the shipping address and principal investigator (PI), ensure that all terms are present and legible, and verify that an authorized signatory has signed the document. This process is conducted by comparing a PDF copy of the MTA to the information that is in our system for a given order. What follows is a number of common MTA mistakes that we encounter. These mistakes create confusion and waste time for tech transfer offices and eager scientists.
  2. An implementing letter, or IL, is one of two parts of the MTA. An IL is specific to each material being ordered and defines the terms within the agreement between the depositing institution (PROVIDER) and the recipient institution (RECIPIENT). Learn more about the parts of an MTA and find sample documents here.
  3. Each material ordered requires its own implementing letter and corresponding signature page, since the institution and/or scientist providing the material (the PROVIDER and PROVIDER SCIENTIST, respectively) may be different. The more materials that are requested in an order, the more likely it is that there will be additional implementing letters and signature pages to be signed.
  4. All MTAs must be signed by an authorized representative of the requesting institution. While some institutions allow their PIs to sign MTAs, typically a high-level administrator (e.g., a dean, director, or president), or someone within the technology transfer office (TTO) must sign. Given this, we are generally not able to accept a signature from any other party (lab member, purchaser, etc.).
  5. Principal investigator.
  6. For contractual purposes, the PI field in the MTA must state the head of lab where the materials will be used. Occasionally, this field is filled with something invalid (like the name of the requesting institution). We review all MTAs for this, and require a valid PI name before we can approve the MTA. Find more resources, including helpful MTA videos, here.
  7. The Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement, or UBMTA, is non-negotiable. While changes to the language of an implementing letter are possible, these changes must be discussed with our tech transfer department, and cannot be made unilaterally by striking language in an MTA.
  8. As part of the MTA process, Addgene must ship the materials to the address where the research will take place. This address is the one that must appear in each implementing letter. As such, changes to the shipping address necessitate an updated copy of the MTA.