May 3-4, 2018

This conference, convened by the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and supported by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the NIH, addresses the increasing barriers material transfer agreements pose for infectious disease research.  Access to biological samples is crucial to the research and development process that leads to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines to address new and reemerging infectious diseases.  However, access to biological samples has become an increasingly substantial barrier to this crucial step in the research and development process.  Researchers at major institutions across the United States reported difficulty in obtaining any samples of the Ebola virus during the 2014-15 outbreak and even those that did obtain samples reported difficulties obtaining fresh samples thereafter to identify mutations in the virus as it spread.  Researchers are similarly encountering difficulties accessing adequate samples and disease data about the Zika virus, largely due to Brazilian law affecting material transfer.

Although the role of the material transfer agreement has grown and evolved over the last two decades, the scant evidence suggests that the researchers ultimately impacted by their terms play a marginal role.  This conference convenes infectious disease specialists with experts in the ethics and law of biological sampling, biobanking, and material transfer in order to develop multidisciplinary research as a vehicle to advance understanding of the changing role of the material transfer agreement in infectious disease research.


How to Register
Please email your CV and contact information to

Program Fees
While there are no fees required to attend the conference, space is limited.  Please register at the link above.

Travel & Housing
Participants are responsible for arranging their own travel and housing.

A short list of area hotels can be found below. Special rates are available at:

Other area hotels include:

Georgetown Law is located by Capitol Hill and is accessible on the Red Line by the Union Station Metro stop. See for more

The program agenda is:

Session 1: Overview and Goals of the Meeting – Thursday, May 3, 1:00PM
Overview: Sam Halabi* and Rebecca Katz*

Session 2: The Nagoya Protocol and the International Sharing of Pathogens – Thursday, May 3, 1:30PM
Speakers: Michelle Rourke* (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia), Steven Solomon (Principal Legal Adviser, World Health Organization, Geneva)

Session 3: Negotiating Material Transfer Agreements Thursday, May 3, 3:00PM
Speakers: Benjamin Krohmal (Willkie Farr, Formerly NIH Bioethics)

Friday, May 4, 8:00AM-8:30AM – Coffee and Continental Breakfast

Session 4: Field Capture, Quarantine, and Transfer of Biopsy Samples for Human Infectious Disease Research, Friday, May 4, 8:30AM
Speakers: Brian Bird (University of California-Davis), Kendra Chittenden, USAID

Session 5: Material Transfer and Federal Public Health Preparedness, Friday, May 4, 10:00AM
Speakers: Maria Julia Marinissen and Ruvani Chandrasekera (Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response), Cara Chrisman, USAID

11:30AM-12:30PM – Lunch (provided)

Session 6: Ethical Research in Developing Countries, Friday, May 4, 12:30PM
Speakers: Kevin Fitzgerald (Georgetown University), Benjamin Berkman* (National Institutes of Health – Bioethics)

Session 7: Issues and Challenges Faced by Early Career Infectious Disease Researchers, Friday, May 4: 2:00PM

Speakers: Alexandra Phelan (Georgetown University), Michelle Rourke (Griffith University and Georgetown University) and Brooke Watson (EcoHealth Alliance)

Next Steps, 3:30-4:00PM
Facilitators: Gian Luca Burci, Sam Halabi, and Rebecca Katz


Global Health Law