A shocking discovery of an illegal laboratory home to lab mice, medical waste, hazardous materials, and at least 20 highly infectious diseases has been uncovered in a warehouse in Fresno County, California by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Fresno County Public Health Department took several months to evaluate the activities of the unlicensed laboratory. “The evaluation required coordination and collaboration with multiple federal and state agencies,” revealed Joe Prado, assistant director of the health department.
City officials, during their inspection on March 3, unearthed a stockpile of chemicals in the warehouse. Subsequent inspections by county health officials revealed an array of medical devices believed to have been created on-site. Court documents detailed the unsettling discovery of blood, tissue samples, unidentified vials of fluid, and alleged biological material inside the warehouse.
Compounding the gruesome find were hundreds of lab mice subjected to substandard living conditions, with 773 of them having to be euthanized and over 175 found dead. Potentially infectious agents such as coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes were detected in the substances by the CDC.
The occupant of the warehouse was identified as Prestige BioTech, a Nevada-registered company not licensed for business in California. Prestige BioTech’s president, Xiuquin Yao, admitted that the assets of a defunct company, Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI), were relocated to the warehouse after UMI went under. Prestige BioTech was a creditor to UMI and assumed its place as a successor.
Communication attempts with Prestige BioTech and Yao by officials were left unanswered. Moreover, attempts to locate any California-based addresses for either company yielded no results. The addresses provided for the company’s agents were either vacant offices or unverifiable addresses in China.
Accusations against Prestige BioTech include failure to comply with orders related to biological abatement and disposal of materials. The company is also accused of not providing any licensing or permits for laboratory activities. Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba confirmed that all hazardous materials have been cleared, but officials are still in the process of emptying the warehouse.