Unlicensed Chinese Lab With Deadly Diseases Found in California

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An investigation that recently took place in Fresno uncovered a laboratory with infectious agents, medical waste, and hundreds of mice bioengineered “to catch and carry the COVID-19 virus,” according to Fresno County authorities.

The facility, located in Reedley leased to now-defunct Alliance Inc., was found to be secretly utilized by Nevada-based Prestige Biotech, Inc. Court documents reveal Prestige had set up the lab following a fire at their Fresno-based facility. A Chinese medical company registered in Nevada which was operating the unlicensed facility in Reedley, California which is about 24 miles southeast of Fresno. According to the city, the company had a goal of being a diagnostics lab.

The warrant was served to the property owner, AY-NC-LP, an agent of the property owner, Archibald M. Sam, and two agents for Prestige Biotech, Barry Zhang CPA & Associates, and Xiao Xiao Wang.

The lab had no business license and according to Reedley City Manager, Nicole Zieba, “The city was completely unaware that they were in this building, operating under the cover of night.”

The Fresno County Public Health Department launched its investigation into the facility in December 2022 after a code enforcement officer saw a garden hose attached to a building that was presumed to be vacant and had no active business license, Zieba said.

According to court documents, city officials inspected the location at 850 I St. on March 3 for building violations and found various chemicals being stored. On March 16, an inspection by county public health officials allegedly turned up medical devices thought to have been developed on-site, such as Covid and pregnancy tests.

“Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus,” court documents said. “Fresno County Public Health staff also observed blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples and serums; and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material.”

Hundreds of mice at the warehouse were kept in inhumane conditions, court documents said. The city took possession of the animals in April, euthanizing 773 of them; more than 175 were found dead.

After declaring the site unsafe, they called in the Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH), setting in motion a cascade of investigations involving state and national organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FBI, and California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Officials said it took 76 days and 14 different agencies to inspect and clean up the facility between April to July this year.

Despite the county’s response to the lab’s operations, it appears it mostly flew under the radar of much of the public – even though the health department provided public notices on its website this spring. The discovery also came during the early part of the year that consumed local agencies with flooding and storm response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the substances found which turned up to be infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis and herpes, according to a Health and Human Services letter dated June 6.

City officials spoke with Xiuquin Yao, who was identified as the company president, through emails included in the court documents. Yao told officials that Prestige BioTech moved assets belonging to a defunct company, Universal Meditech Inc., to the Reedley warehouse from Fresno after UMI went under. Prestige Biotech was a creditor to UMI and identified as its successor, according to court documents.

“The other addresses provided for identified authorized agents were either empty offices or addresses in China that could not be verified,” court documents said.

Prestige BioTech is accused of failing to comply with orders, including providing a plan for biological abatement and disposal of the materials. Emails sent to Yao and Prestige BioTech requesting comment were not immediately answered last Thursday.

“Some of our federal partners still have active investigations going. I can only speak to the building side of it,”Zieba said.

Universal Meditech Inc. is actively seeking clearance from the city of Fresno to reopen at a location across the street from Fresno Yosemite International Airport, according to developers.

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