The indictments of two US professors accused of fraud for their alleged misuse of bacteria provide a lesson to scientists that material transfer agreements (MTAs)—which many researchers consider irksome red tape—can be used against academics in court, especially in today's climate of heightened biosecurity, say attorneys and technology transfer officials.

The indictments charge that Robert Ferrell, a professor of human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, provided Steven Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, with Serratia marcescens and Bacillus atrophaeus for use in one of Kurtz's projects for the Critical Art Ensemble. Kurtz has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Ferrell plans to plead not guilty, according to his attorney. The next hearing is scheduled for December, according to prosecutor, William J. Hochul, chief of terrorism in the US Attorney's Western New York District.

One of the issues in the case is that...

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