Materials may include cultures, cell lines, plasmids, nucleotides, proteins, bacteria, transgenic animals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals, alloys and other materials of scientific or commercial value. Can students search with the material they get? The exchange of reagents and scientific materials is widespread throughout the scientific community and is essential to the advancement of research. Most organizations (including academic institutions) will only disclose materials if there is a material transfer agreement (MTA) between the supplier and the recipient. Yes, under the supervision of the Principal Investigator (PI), students can conduct research with the material obtained. All project participants are required to read the MTA and sign an agreement on confidential information and intellectual property (“CIIP”) regarding the MTA. Scientists have traditionally freely shared research materials and, indeed, an important criterion for scientific publication was the unfettered ability of other researchers to experimentally reproduce and test published results. This ability to reproduce results often depends on access to the underlying biological materials or information, but this access is not guaranteed today. What`s changed? Perhaps the most important factor has been the narrowing of the gap between basic research and commercial developments, particularly in the biomedical arena, but also in agricultural biology (Rai and Eisenberg, 2001). Materials that at one time would have been almost exclusively useful to basic research are increasingly seen as having direct commercial value, resulting in a new generation of companies focusing on the use of innovative research tools to discover new properties, genes or compounds of commercial value. Of course, these companies are reluctant to share their “crown jewels” without ensuring that their business interests are protected.
The evolving role of universities, which today actively use the patent system to transfer the results of their research to the private sector and conduct research often supported by private companies, has also played an important role. The increased use of the patent system is, to a large extent, a consequence of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which allowed universities to possess and manage inventions made in publicly funded research, provided they have filed patent applications and are carefully striving to develop and commercialize the invention (see www.cogr.edu/docs/bayh_dole.pdf). For these reasons, companies that have traditionally been unsavory on the use of their property by a university may now be properly concerned about how their proprietary materials can lead to valuable inventions or even fuel a competitor`s business interests. Universities and non-profit research organizations have followed suit and have also been much more aware and protective of research materials. The result has been a slow but steady evaporation of the unrestricted transfer of research materials between scientists in general, but especially between industry scientists and academics.