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NIH Eases Tech Transfer With Online Material Transfer Agreements

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the Transfer Agreement Dashboard, or TAD, to streamline the transfer of NIH-developed research materials to the biomedical research community.

The system dramatically reduces the transaction time for transferring NIH-developed materials, addressing a Presidential directive to better facilitate technology transfer and commercialization activities. The more than 6,000 researchers who conduct research in NIH laboratories help to drive the nation’s research and discovery process partly through the generation of these valuable research materials, such as cell lines or specially bred research animals.

The TAD works in conjunction with Material Transfer Agreements, or MTAs. MTAs govern the transfer of tangible research materials between two organizations, and they define the rights of the material provider and the recipient with respect to the materials.

Previously, NIH institutes and centers handled more than 4,000 MTAs annually via a largely manual and mostly paper-based process. The NIH estimates that, given the current research output from NIH labs, MTAs could grow by as much as 20 percent per year at some institutes. TAD will reduce the high transactional costs inherent in a paper-based system and delays, thus making important materials available to researchers in a few days versus several weeks.

For its first release, TAD is focused on MTAs between the intramural laboratories at NIH and nonprofit research organizations and universities that wish to obtain NIH materials. Eventually, TAD will be able to accommodate materials from these external nonprofit organizations and universities into the NIH intramural program. Intramural refers to research based in federal NIH labs, in contrast to the NIH’s extensive extramural grant program for non-NIH scientists.

Features of the TAD system include ease of use, speed, and increased visibility of and access to materials transfer data in real-time.

TAD has an intuitive interface that follows the same processes and policies that NIH has already established within the technology transfer community. It uses online forms in a standardized workflow to increase compliance and reduce omission of steps. The online forms have built-in validation and provide instant notification of potential compliance or accuracy issues.

By speeding up a mostly paper-based process and by enabling electronic signatures, the research community will potentially see a reduction in processing and turnaround time related to material requests, enabling more time for research activities.

TAD offers material requesters and providers 24/7 access to the status of in-process MTAs. TAD also allows users to easily track metrics on numbers and types of MTAs executed by their institution, and view comments and the full history of each transaction.

For more information about how to register nonprofit or academic organizations in the system, contact TAD User Support at NIHTADSupport@mail.nih.gov. TAD was developed by the NIH Office of Intramural Research, the NIH Center for Information Technology, and the NIH technology transfer community, and can be found at https://techtransferagreements.nih.gov.

For commercial licensing of unpatented NIH and FDA materials, the NIH Office of Technology Transfer, with support from the National Cancer Institute, recently launched the electronic Research Materials website (eRMa) to streamline this process for companies that wish to license NIH materials for internal use. An NIH internal-use license is a contract that governs the transfer of tangible research materials from NIH to a company for commercial research use. For information on eRMa, contact Dr. Bonny Harbinger at harbingb@mail.nih.gov.

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