STANDARD PROCEDURE for the MANAGEMENT and RELEASE of NEW PLANT MATERIALS
1.00 PURPOSE AND BACKGROUND
The purpose of this document is to outline guidelines for the management and transfer of plant materials developed by Texas AgriLife Research recognizing diversity in agronomic, horticultural, and industrial plant programs. The terms “plant material” and “seed” are intended to be all-inclusive, including vegetatively propagated plant materials, such as sprigs, rhizomes or buds.
Texas AgriLife Research, as part of the Texas A&M University System (System), and in cooperation with Texas AgriLife Extension, conducts research in crop breeding and genetic improvement to benefit the public and support the educational mission of Texas A&M University (TAMU), including the development and release of improved germplasm and new crop cultivars.
Texas AgriLife Research, part of the public agricultural research system, has a broad mission to serve agriculture, particularly farmers and the general public. Farm, commodity, and trade organizations are encouraged to provide suggestions to enhance crop improvement and the distribution of new plant materials. Plant materials are considered as intellectual property and are owned and managed by Texas AgriLife Research, under System employees.
Three basic goals are summarized in Section 2.00 to guide release decisions. General guidelines and methods are outlined in Section 3.00 for transferring plant material for private and commercial uses. The classification of plant materials and types of releases is intended to assist both the breeder and seed users in understanding some alternatives in managing releases. Partnerships, joint incentives, and sharing of research materials are encouraged.
2.00 GOALS IN PLANT MANAGEMENT AND RELEASE
Three general goals provide the basic criteria for the management of plant materials and release decisions. These goals include:
A. Maximize Public Benefit. Plant material must be utilized by farmers and consumers to benefit the public. Plant material must be increased and managed to retain genetic purity. Variety or designated names provide identity and recognition to the originator of the improved plant materials. Commercial production and the distribution of plant releases are essential for both large and small acreage crops. Protection agreements and licensing provisions are frequently necessary to complete research and assure transfer of materials to the private sector.
B. Assure Technology Transfer to the Private Sector. Texas AgriLife Research serves as a primary producer and distributor of new plant materials and depends upon the private sector to increase and market seed. State and federal plant protection provisions, protected names, trademarks, and/or markers (such as biochemical identification) may be useful in transferring technology to the private sector.
C. Recover Costs and Generate Revenue. The generation of funds through seed sales, fees, and other business terms is essential to recover some development costs and protection expenses, maintain competitive science, and enhance future crop improvement research. Financial terms and license provisions on plant materials must be realistic and consistent with the biological potentials and business environment.
3.00 GENERAL GUIDELINES AND KEY PARTICIPANTS
A. General Guidelines are outlined below for the orderly equitable release, distribution, and protection of plant materials.
Partnerships and Cooperation. Texas AgriLife Research is responsible for research in crop breeding and genetic enhancement and assuring the timely transfer of this work to agricultural, scientific and industrial communities. Cooperation among the faculty and between faculty and external scientific and industrial interests is essential. Private interests are increasingly providing resources for research, in return for some preferential access to plant products and new technology. The commercialization of research had been encouraged both by Legislative mandates to Texas AgriLife Research and through actions by the Board of Regents to provide financial incentives to faculty and staff to develop products or services of commercial usefulness.
Plant Release Proposals – Early discussion with Texas Foundation Seed Service (TFSS), the Plant Review Committee (PRC), and the Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) is encouraged in planning a new release. The breeder generally assumes a lead responsibility for preparing and submitting the Release Proposal (outlined in Section 5.00). Plant material is considered to be owned and under the stewardship of Texas AgriLife Research. If a decision is made to not release particular plant materials, then the disposition and use of that material remains the discretion of Texas AgriLife Research.
Exchange and Distribution – Exchange of plant material for breeding and genetic research is encouraged for public institutions and private industry and may include regional testing, Texas AgriLife Research Extension trials, and cooperative evaluations. “Selected Plant Materials” (see Section 4.00) may be provided to private firms, public breeders, grown on private lands, or placed with a private producer for further commercial evaluation before it is formally released.
Transfer and Protection – The formal release and transfer of new plant materials will usually involve public notices of availability and may involve Requests for Proposals or expressions of interest from private firms and/or the transfer of intellectual property rights through the use of licenses and agreements. Texas AgriLife Research, in conjunction with the Breeder and the OTC, will consider applications for the appropriate intellectual property protection such as Certificates of Plant Variety Protection, Plant Patents, or Utility Patents in facilitating the transfer and protection of new plant materials. Additionally, in some instances individual firms and/or industrial groups may enter into research or partnership agreements on intellectual property, to gain access to genetic products.
Distribution of any plant material should be documented to avoid premature release, unauthorized distribution, misunderstandings over ownership, or loss of intellectual property rights. Protection agreements during research help assure that private firms can acquire rights and marketing opportunities later and/or protect their investment in marketing new products. Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) are to be used in providing material to private firms and public agencies for evaluation (with copies filed with the Texas Foundation Seed Service and the Office of Technology Commercialization).
B. Roles of Key Participants
Scientific quality, summary of research, review of proposals, and technology transfer involve several individuals and groups working together. Successful plant release includes institutional flexibility to meet the needs of each crop or release. Roles of primary participants are outlined as follows:
Plant Breeders and other scientists provide the major leadership in research and the release of plant materials. Responsibilities include research planning, periodic reviews on future releases, assuring materials are adequately protected, preparation of release proposals, and suggesting ways to implement release. A team is frequently involved with a release and may involve several disciplines and recognition of coworker contributions.
Cooperative evaluations are encouraged, particularly with Texas AgriLife Extension Specialists. The Plant Review Committee commonly looks for Texas AgriLife Extension participation on new variety releases. Breeders maintain Breeder Seed and may provide technical or advisory assistance to TFSS, OTC or commercial firms.
Department Heads and Resident Directors provide a key role in crop improvement programs by guiding coordination between disciplines, and helping assure the TFSS, OTC and others are aware of potential releases. These Administrative Heads provide a vital linkage in planning, implementation and guidance for the total crop improvement program.
Program Coordinators provide communication among the developers of plant materials, the seed industry, and crop producers on scientific progress and the transfer of new materials into crop productions. The Head of the Department of Soil & Crop Sciences and Resident Director of Research at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Beaumont serve as Program Coordinators for all field crops and turfgrass, while the Head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences serves as the Program Coordinator for fruit, vegetable, and nut crops, including emphasis on industry relationships. Activities of Program Coordinators include:
1. Effective communication among breeders, department heads, resident directors, and with industry and producer interests;
2. Development of new partnership between Texas AgriLife Research and industry/producer interests, plus industry relationships and liaison with industry associations;
3. Advising the Director on release and licensing issues, and interacting with the Office of Technology Commercialization as appropriate. The Coordinators will report to the Director of Texas AgriLife Research in these roles.
Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed (TAFS), located at Vernon, will be responsible for the production of foundation seed and assisting breeders in the production of breeder’s seed, as requested, and/or where required by a contract or license agreement managed by the OTC. The operation is expected to be largely self-sufficient.
TAFS works with OTC, other Foundation Seed organizations, Crop Improvement Associations in other states, the Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA, and other state and federal agencies. When plant materials are licensed or managed under an agreement, TAFS works closely with the OTC.
TAFS works with a lead Texas AgriLife Extension Specialist to coordinate seed for county and regional field tests, manages the increase and distribution of foundation seed stock and handles revenues from seed sales and nonlicensed products.
The Plant Review Committee (PRC) is a standing internal committee appointed by the Director of Texas AgriLife Research to oversee the orderly release of plant materials, provide guidance to TAFS and OTC, and to make recommendations to the Director of Texas AgriLife Research on plant materials. Activities of the PRC include:
1. Establish technical review panels to evaluate release proposals.
2. Hold quarterly meetings to review release proposals and meet with breeders who are planning releases, and act on release proposals.
3. Provide recommendations to the TFSS, OTC, and Director’s Office on release proposals, cultivar names, and agreements on licensing and advise the Director of Texas AgriLife Research on release and licensing issues. If a question arises between faculty on “proportional creativity” or royalty sharing, the PRC may make recommendations to the Texas AgriLife Research Director.
The Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization is involved in initial discussions and planning with breeders, unit heads, Program Coordinators, and TAFS on planned releases suitable for licensing. In conjunction with the Program Coordinators and breeders, the OTC provides leadership and initiative for the protection and management of intellectual property for new releases including the following services:
1. Management of license and royalty agreements;
2. Marketing of new selected plant materials to commercial firms;
3. Development and negotiation of license and evaluation agreements;
4. Management of intellectual property protection;
5. Advice on business strategies and intellectual property protection issues; and
6. Advises and keeps the Director’s Office (Agriculture) who represents Texas AgriLife Research apprised of all services provided by the OTC in the management of new plant materials.
4.00 TYPES OF RELEASES AND PROTECTION
A. Classes of Material – Improved plant materials may result from genetic manipulation by plant breeding and/or molecular and cellular biology. For purposes of management and release, plant materials are classified as follows:
1. Genetic Stocks: Research in plant breeding, genetic and/or cellular and molecular biology may produce unique genetic characteristics or distinct genetic materials useful to other researchers. Examples include specific genetic characters, genes or gene constructs involving vectors, and promoters. An essential characteristic of genetic stocks is that they have no immediate commercial value.
2. Germplasm: Germplasm is commonly used to further research, with little value for increase or direct commercial use in its present form. However, some desirable characters may be immediately useful to breeders and industry in developing improved varieties in other research programs.
3. Breeding Lines: Breeding lines may contain useful characteristics of unique traits with apparent commercial value. Breeding lines may be increased in their present form, used for selection, or tested further before commercialization. Texas AgriLife Research may choose to release some advanced materials as “breeding lines” rather than continue research for commercial applications as varieties or inbred lines.
4. Selected Plant Materials: Selected plant materials may be transferred to public or private firms for cooperative research, usually under a protection agreement, for further development, feasibility studies, or commercial exploration.
5. Commercial Varieties or Parental/Inbred Line: These plant materials are released for direct commercialization as new varieties or production of hybrids; release depends on clear demonstration of performance or traits in several experiments over several years, locations and/or conditions.
B. Types of Releases and Transfer
Release of plant materials is based on several factors (such as crop species, means of propagation, and commercial potential). Flexibility is essential to meet specific economic, biological or industry needs. Alternatives for release and distribution for plant materials include:
1. Unrestricted Unlimited Release – An Unrestricted Unlimited Release is intended for general uses of those plant materials with undefined uses or low commercial potential, without any restrictions on research or commercialization uses. One-time fees may be requested to recover costs.
2. Restricted Release – A Restricted Release designates specific uses for plant material, with an agreement with recipients, noting restrictions, applications, and mutual interests.
3. Limited Release – A Limited Release involves specific recipients, to enable selected firms to use plant materials. Agreements may be developed with a small number of firm(s), selected on the basis of their proposal, and/or provide a protected position for a single firm or organization to complete research and/or assume commercial development. Limited Releases are usually managed under a license or option agreement, with financial terms and performance expectations.
4. Unreleased Transfer – Some plant materials may not be immediately released but simply provided to others for additional research or commercial feasibility studies. “Selected Plant Materials” may be managed under a Material Transfer Agreement or an Option Agreement, until specific traits and usefulness are determined and a formal release is proposed.
C. Pre-release Protection is essential to clarify ownership and transfer uses and rights to others later. Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) and other sample documents are available from OTC. A copy of all pre-release documentation (MTAs and other documents) should be provided by the breeders to the Office Technology Commercialization, Texas Foundation Seed Service and Program Coordinators.
Exchange of plant materials for research uses with other public breeders may be handled directly by the breeders, through and MTA with the (1) identification and quantity of materials being provided to a co-worker, (2) clarifying the anticipated uses for breeding and research purposes, (3) stating that Texas AgriLife Research retains its ownership, and (4) obtaining written acknowledgment from the recipient.
Field testing and commercial scale evaluations are encouraged, involving other breeders, Texas AgriLife Extension Specialists, farmers or others. Most commonly seed for one season is provided for field trials and is not to be retained or transferred to others. An MTA should be completed with farms or cooperators to clarify expectations.
5.00 THE RELEASE PROPOSAL AND PROCESS
A. Release proposals are prepared by the breeders and summarize the background, current facts, and plant performance/traits. The release proposal may vary in detail, depending on the class of plant material (please see Section 4), however all release proposals should include these sections:
1. Background – information on the source, origin, or breeding history.
2. Performance and Trials – summary of key features, data, anticipated usefulness, and/or disclosure limitations or unknown features. This section may be brief for germplasm and more detailed for a variety (including details on yields, statistics, quality. Host plant resistance, and regions of adaptation).
3. Seed production and availability – type and quantity of seed availability for increase or distribution.
4. Implementation – breeder’s suggestion on notifications, release and distribution, and guidance for outreach (including protection as appropriate) and revenue sharing (for royalties, if others were involved in the creative development).
The Release Proposal should be prepared for internal review with sufficient data and information for a peer group to evaluate merits and make decisions. Alternatively, the Release Proposal may be prepared (or later converted) as a Texas AgriLife Research publication, to document research and provide technical information for others.
B. Registration Article (for submission to a professional journal) should be with the proposal for a new variety or germplasm release. Include a draft of the Texas AgriLife Research Leaflet for new varieties. The original and 15 copies of the entire package Release proposal, Registration Article, and Leaflet (as appropriate) should be submitted through the administrative head and Program Coordinator to the PRC (with one copy to the Texas Foundation Seed Service) eight weeks before the quarterly PRC meetings. Additional information on preparing and submitting releases is available from the PRC Chair.
C. Revenue Distribution
Royalties or income generated from the commercialization of plant materials will be distributed to the inventors on all types of plant material, according to the TAMU System policy on intellectual property (System Policy 17.02, Patents). Scientists involved in the development of plant materials that generate royalties or income under a license or option agreement must agree in advance regarding proportionate contributions and sharing of expected income prior to the distribution of such income.
(This revision replaces Standard Procedure 1250A, dated August 3, 1992)