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Research Tools and Biomaterial Sharing Policies

Research tools are, in a sense, a by-product of a research effort when producing another deliverable. That resulting research tool can and must be shared, according to many sponsor requirements.

What are Research Tools and How Should They Be Treated?

Research Tools -Peptides and Proteins, Cell lines, Virus, Animal Models, small molecules, polyclonal antibodies, monoclonal antibodies

Research tools, also called research resources or research materials, are biological or other materials that are: 

  • primarily useful for research purposes, such as in data related to the elucidation of disease mechanisms or to drug discovery; 
  • by definition finished products that often do not require further development time and development costs in order to be utilized; or 
  • broadly enabling inventions, useful in developing multiple products in numerous disciplines, rather than a single project-specific or product-specific use.
Common examples of research tools include:
  • antibodies, peptides and engineered proteins
  • small molecules, antisense oligonucleotides
  • research reagents
  • expression plasmids and proteins derived from them
  • cell receptors
  • cell lines
  • animal models (e.g., knockout mice)
  • software, apps, surveys (questionaries), methods

What are a Project Team's Obligations with Research Tools?

Principal investigators and institutions that receive sponsored research funding are expected to disseminate research resources (research tools) broadly and in a timely manner. Failure to share these research tools can lead to unnecessarily redundant research and to delays in scientific innovation.

U-M Guidelines for Compliance

Under Tech Transfer policy and the terms of most funding agreements, researchers have an obligation to promptly disclose research tools to U-M Tech Transfer, whether a patent is being sought or not. 
Tech Transfer

U-M Tech Transfer can help

Principal investigators can use U-M Tech Transfer's online invention disclosure form to submit or share their research tool. From there, U-M Tech Transfer can work with the investigator to add it to a Research Tool Portfolio and discuss a dissemination strategy. If you have questions or need further assistance, please call the Tech Transfer office at 734-763-0614.



Any research materials created in the performance of the project is an Invention.

Yes. Under the terms of most funding agreements, researchers have an obligation to promptly disclose whether a patent is being sought or not. A Biological Material/Research Tool Report is required for all research tool inventions and developments. These may accelerate someone else’s research, therefore, promote scientific innovation.


Typically, research tools are materials such as antibodies, vectors, plasmids, cell lines, mice, and other materials used as “tools” in the research process. These are sometimes referred to as research resources, research materials, or tangible research property.

If you have research tools that you believe to be valuable or wish to provide for others (including research collaborators), OTT will work with you to develop the appropriate protection, licensing, and distribution strategy.

It is a written description of your invention or development provided to OTT. The report refers to all sources of support and includes information necessary to begin pursuing dissemination and commercialization activities.

To initiate the process, submit the report online at

Yes, as long as the quality is regulated while stored an extended period of time.

You will be contacted by the assigned licensing specialist to discuss the invention and its potential commercial applications.

Yes, depending on what dissemination strategy is chosen either licensing revenue or production cost (material fee) can be reimbursed to the laboratory.

Anytime if it is a finished material to disseminate regardless of publication status.

Because research tools do not necessarily need to be protected by patents to be licensed to commercialize and generate royalties for the laboratory.

If possible should provide a supporting reference demonstrated the production and validation of the research tool. This delivers value to scientists who wish to use your reagent in their own experiments by providing a method for experimental reproducibility.

References and Resources


Contact U-M Tech Transfer with questions at or 734.763.0614.