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The issue of disposition of funds received for WI-38 cell culture


Pioneering the Material Transfer Agreement
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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Coincidentally with this activity, I also realised that some of the people to whom I was sending cultures were using the cells for vaccine development and potentially production of vaccines. It occurred to me that this might mean my being liable for some accident that one could only imagine, that the cells I would be sending to people would be used for a product or a test that would hurt or even kill somebody, and I became alarmed when I realised that this might happen.

And so I printed a little label that I put on every culture that I sent out that essentially said – of course, I had no legal authority for this but at least I had gone as far as I could go – and it said, in red letters, actually, that I was not responsible for whatever use the cells in this culture would be used for. That actually was the beginning of what later became a universal document in the United States, and probably worldwide, called: A materials transfer document, which, as the name implies, it became not only fashionable but legal subsequently when cultures were sent to people that they sign a materials transfer agreement, which is what it is actually called, an MTA. And that has become… is now standard operating procedure. But I pioneered that back in the early '70s – '70, '71.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: United States

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2013

Date story went live: 14 June 2013