Authorities in Fresno County, California spent months looking into a warehouse where they believe an unlicensed laboratory with lab mice, medical waste, and dangerous items was operating.
Fresno County Public Health Department associate director Joe Prado said in a statement on Thursday that the department has been “evaluating and assessing the activities of an unlicensed laboratory” in Reedley. On July 7th, following a formal abatement process, all of the biological agents had been eradicated.
“The evaluation required coordination and collaboration with multiple federal and state agencies to determine and classify biological and chemical contents onsite, in addition to assessing jurisdictional authority under this unique situation,” Prado said.
Court records show that on March 3, city officers investigating a complaint about a possible building violation at 850 I St. discovered a number of chemicals being stored there. Medical products, such as the Covid and pregnancy tests, were allegedly created on the premises and found during an examination by county public health officials on March 16.
“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.”
According to court filings, hundreds of mice were housed in filthy circumstances in the facility. In April, the city took control of the animals and euthanized 773 of them; more than 175 were already dead when the city gained possession of them.
According to a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services dated June 6, the CDC conducted tests on the chemicals and found at least 20 pathogenic organisms, such as coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes.
Tenant Prestige BioTech was discovered to be a Nevada corporation without a valid California business license. Emails between city authorities and Xiuquin Yao, named as the firm president, were submitted as evidence in court.
Yao reportedly told authorities that after Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI) went bankrupt, Prestige BioTech transported its assets from Fresno to a warehouse in Reedley. Court records show that Prestige Biotech is listed as UMI’s successor and creditor.
The only California address officials were able to obtain for either business was UMI’s former headquarters in Fresno, from which the company had been evicted.
“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 has been charged with disobeying a number of directives, such as submitting a plan for biological abatement and disposing of the materials. On Thursday, we emailed Yao and Prestige BioTech asking for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Prado informed the Fresno, California, station of the NBC network, KSEE, that the people connected with Prestige BioTech were not transparent. A lack of proper licensing or permits for conducting experiments or other laboratory activities is cited in the court documents.
Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba told KSEE that efforts to empty the warehouse are ongoing but that the area has been cleansed of hazardous chemicals.
“Some of our federal partners still have active investigations going. I can only speak to the building side of it,” Zieba said.