An undisclosed biotech laboratory linked to China, housing approximately 1,000 mice and potentially dangerous infectious agents, was discovered last week in Reedley, California. This covert operation, connected to Prestige BioTech – a company registered in Las Vegas – caught the attention of local and federal officials, leading to an extensive investigation.
The clandestine facility, dubbed by authorities as an “unlicensed laboratory,” was spotted within a Reedley warehouse. The lab’s existence was unveiled after a code enforcement officer noted a garden hose, which appeared to be out of place, extending from the structure’s rear wall.
WOW: Secret unlicensed Chinese biolab raided in California, CDC found infectious viral agents such as malaria, rubella, HIV, chlamydia, E. Coli, streptococcus pneumonia, hepatitis, and herpes.
The lab also had 900 genetically engineered mice living in ‘inhumane’ conditions with… pic.twitter.com/lGYhiuxwO1
— Mike Coudrey (@MichaelCoudrey) July 29, 2023
Upon further investigation, an unsettling truth emerged. Local health officials reported a horrifying scene inside the warehouse: “several vessels of liquid and various apparatus,” coupled with the alarming discovery of blood, tissue, and other bodily fluid samples.
Joe Prado, Fresno County Public Health Department assistant director, commented on the alarming conditions, “There were over 800 different chemicals on-site. A lot of these are being categorized under unknown chemicals.”
A large population of possibly infected laboratory mice was equally concerning. According to Prado, the mice were used for testing the efficacy of COVID-19 detection kits. However, these animals’ health and living conditions were deplorable; hundreds of mice were kept in inhumane circumstances, and over 175 were found deceased. In response to the poor conditions, city officials euthanized 773 mice.
The disturbing discoveries continued as officials probed further. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed tests. They identified the presence of at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including the coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis and herpes.
Perhaps most alarming, however, is the overseas connection. Prestige BioTech’s president, Xiuquin Yao, acknowledged that assets of the now-defunct Universal Meditech Inc. were moved to the Reedley warehouse. Authorities, however, could not locate a California-based address for either Prestige BioTech or Universal Meditech, and the only other provided addresses were either vacant offices or unverifiable locations in China.
Prestige BioTech stands accused of failing to provide a plan for the disposal of materials and biological abatement, raising further questions about the company’s operations. Prestige BioTech is not registered with the Fresno County Public Health Department as a medical waste generator.
Unsurprisingly, a federal criminal investigation is now underway. What is clear is the magnitude of this operation’s potential threat to public health and safety. Prado noted, “I’ve never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno.”
This event should serve as an alarm for our public health officials and lawmakers to ensure stricter regulation, better transparency and rigorous oversight over biomedical research within our borders.