Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

FAQs on HTA licensing requirements for human tissues and cells used in clinical trials and medicines

Do I need a licence to import/export starting material for an ATMP from/to the EU?

The HTA regulates establishments that undertake the procurement, testing, processing, storage, distribution, import and export of tissues and cells for human use. This includes any steps involved in the handling of tissues and cells prior to them being manufactured into medicines.

Under the Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) Regulations 2007 (as amended) (the Q&S Regs), the import and export of tissues and cells from/to a tissue establishment to a third country is a licensable activity. Therefore, such import and export activities can only be undertaken by establishments licensed for import and/or export by the HTA.

The HTA considers the licensable activity of export as ensuring tissues and cells leaving the UK meet the required legislative standards. This licensing requirement applies to the export of all tissues and cells intended for use in human application, including those that will be used in the manufacture of an advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) where the tissues and cells are referred to as starting materials. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates the manufacture of ATMPs and confirms that good manufacturing practice (GMP) does not apply to the donation, procurement, testing and export of starting materials. The quality of the starting materials is key to the quality of the finished medicinal products and compliance with the Tissues and Cells legislation is an important element in providing assurance of quality.

Do I need a licence to import/export biosamples used for donor testing?

Under the Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) Regulations 2007 (as amended) biological samples may be required from the donor to demonstrate the quality and safety of any tissues and cells used in human application.  These samples need to meet any relevant quality and safety standards set out in the HTA’s Guide to Quality and Safety Assurance for Human Tissues and Cells for Patient Treatment, but can be transported into, or out of, the UK without an import or export licence.


Do I need a licence to import/export biosamples collected for analysis (not for human application) as part of a clinical trial from/to the EU?

Biosamples may be obtained for analysis purposes to provide data for a clinical trial. These types of samples are considered relevant material under the Human Tissue Act 2004. For the purposes of the Act, import and export is considered as into and out of England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This definition will be unchanged following the end of the transition period. Where import and export are taking place, these are not licensable activities under the Act. However, the storage of the material once it is imported may be licensable if this is for a scheduled purpose, such as research within the scope of the Act.

Last updated on: 1 Oct 2020