Team:Wageningen UR/Parts



The registry of Standard Parts plays a crucial role in the open access iGEM community. This means that all constructed parts are made available to everyone. Before we sent in our biobricks, some of them suddenly contained one or more mutations, thereby undoing the characterization we performed for these bricks. Although we now characterized that the bricks containing some mutations also still work properly, i.e. the pkiA promoter brick, we believe in thorough and proper registering of parts. We will therefore send these bricks after the deadline for handing in biobricks! Sharing is caring!

<groupparts>iGEM013 Wageningen_UR</groupparts>


“Share.. not scare!”

During a research project some materials that are not available in-house are sometimes requested from other parties. A material transfer agreement (MTA) is made to formalize the exchange of biological parts like cell-lines, plasmids and reagents and protect the rights of all the parties involved. There is specific expectations regarding compensation for the help provided by the distributor when transferring material. The negotiations and demands in an MTA can stifle the spreading of new discoveries, slow down transfer of technology and limit future avenues of research. Some of the obligations include reach‐through provisions, royalties and fees, publication restrictions, and even restrictions in material distribution to non profit organizations, like the iGEM parts registry.

According to Mirowsky and Van Horn, an MTA is a special signal that commercial firms award to academics when they are unenthusiastic about the request to collaborate[1]. Furthermore, Streitz and Bennett argue that when companies are material suppliers, academic scientists might be tightly restricted in their academic freedom because MTAs may require researchers to assign or license intellectual property rights to discoveries made in the course of using the material, prohibit sharing research material with other researchers or forbid sending it to other institutions[2.

During our research we implemented ATP and pH bio-sensors in Aspergillus niger which were obtained after signing MTAs with different research groups. These contracts currently prevent us from depositing invaluable parts or bio-bricks that contain this DNA, to the iGEM parts registry. This is a pity because these parts increase the repetoire of tools that are currently at the disposal of the open iGEM community. Even the iGEM policy of Get & Give (& Share) was not sufficient to get the permission to submit these parts.

We believe opennes and free sharing is very important for broader dissemination of new discoveries to pervade into all research spaces. The use of copyleft is suggested as an alternative. Copyleft type licenses are a novel use of existing copyright law to ensure a work remains freely available. The idea is to sign an agreement or contract between the exchanging parties such that the recipient can freely modify the provided material but in-turn has to freely share the derivatives with other groups. Because in the end sharing is caring!


1.Mirowsky and Van Horn, op. cit.

2.W. Streitz and A. Bennett, ‘Material transfer agreements: a university perspective’, Plant Physiology, 133, 2003, pp. 10–3.

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