In a shocking turn of events, authorities in Fresno County, California, have uncovered a clandestine laboratory filled with infectious agents, medical waste, and hundreds of bioengineered mice aimed at catching and carrying the COVID-19 virus. The investigation, spanning several months, led to the discovery of an unlicensed facility operated by Prestige Biotech, a Chinese medical company registered in Nevada. The revelations have raised concerns over public health and regulatory oversight.
Reedley, a small city approximately 24 miles southeast of Fresno, played host to the illicit operation. City Manager Nicole Zieba expressed astonishment, revealing that the company had never acquired a business license, and their presence went entirely unnoticed until the investigation began in December 2022. The probe commenced after a code enforcement officer noticed a garden hose attached to what appeared to be a vacant building lacking an active business license.
Further inspections in March exposed the grim reality within the facility. Fresno County Public Health Department officials uncovered an array of alarming findings, including chemicals, suspected biological materials, bodily fluids, and hundreds of genetically modified lab mice, among other supplies, including COVID-19 and pregnancy tests purportedly developed on-site.
With Prestige Biotech remaining uncooperative and failing to comply with hazardous waste disposal orders, authorities were left with no choice but to escalate the investigation. Involving federal, state, and local agencies, including the FBI, the subsequent inspection in March was conducted under a court-approved warrant.
The investigation’s findings were truly unsettling. Several rooms of the warehouse contained vessels of liquid, various apparatus, blood, tissue, bodily fluid samples, serums, and thousands of unlabeled fluids suspected to be biological materials. The 773 mice seized from the warehouse were allegedly genetically engineered to catch and carry the COVID-19 virus, leading to their euthanization under an abatement warrant. Nearly 180 mice were found dead, highlighting the deplorable conditions in which they were kept – overcrowded cages without food or water.
Furthermore, the discovery of approximately 30 freezers and refrigerators, some set to minus 80 degrees, prompted the involvement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC identified at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including HIV, COVID-19, chlamydia, rubella, and malaria, raising significant biosecurity concerns.
According to court documents, Prestige Biotech had been operating the unlicensed and unregulated laboratory since October 2022. The company’s links to the now-defunct Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI) further complicated the investigation. Emails between city officials and Xiuquin Yao, the company president, revealed that Prestige Biotech had assumed assets from UMI, becoming its successor. Authorities found no California-based addresses linked to Prestige Biotech, raising questions about the company’s operations and legitimacy.
With the investigation concluded and biological abatement work completed, the focus now turns to the potential implications of this illicit laboratory. The revelation has exposed significant gaps in regulatory oversight, especially in regard to unlicensed medical facilities and the importation of genetically engineered organisms. Authorities continue to assess the impact of this clandestine operation on public health and safety. As the situation unfolds, the spotlight remains on preventing such activities and ensuring stringent compliance with public health regulations in the future.