Dear Colleagues:

We would like to share some important news related to the import/export of biological samples. These accounts, called to our attention by US regulatory agencies, including the FBI, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce Exports (DCE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), report on several recent incidents in which biological samples were found on travelers returning and departing from the US. The samples were transported in personal luggage without necessary permits or documentation. The travelers were detained and questioned and their samples confiscated and tested.

We would like to remind BU researchers that it is critical to plan ahead when traveling. The CDC and USDA regulate the import and export of certain biological samples, which may require permits. Researchers who plan to transport samples must secure any required permits in advance. For samples that do not require permits, a letter on institutional letterhead about the samples should be prepared and ready to present to custom officials, along with any Material Transfer Agreements, upon declaration of samples during entry. Learn more on the CDC website and USDA website.

Boston University Research Compliance has established policies and guidelines for export control and Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) to support researchers, regulatory requirements, and institutional procedures. Please review details on the Export Control page and the MTA page of the Research Support site.

Individuals responsible for packaging and shipping biological materials must complete a required training. The training is renewed every two years. Learn more and register here.

We are here to support your research and your efforts to fulfill these necessary requirements. Environmental Health & Safety may be able to assist you in determining which permits and approvals are necessary. Please contact Jenny Davis at 617-358-7262 or


Ron Morales
Director of Research Safety
Environmental Health & Safety
Boston University I Boston Medical Center