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Black Market Biolab Uncovered in California Linked to China

Black Market Biolab Uncovered in California Linked to China

The exterior of a biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)

Brad JonesNathan Su

Brad Jones & Nathan Su

8/2/2023

Updated: 8/2/2023

REEDLEY, Calif.—A secret Chinese-owned biolab with thousands of vials of bacterial and viral agents, including chlamydia, E. Coli, streptococcus pneumonia, HIV, hepatitis, herpes, rubella, and malaria uncovered in California has raised serious concerns about biosecurity.
Investigations involving the city, county, state, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and FBI have alarmed residents in the small California city of Reedley, located about 25 miles southeast of Fresno.
The lab, at 850 I Street, was operated by Prestige Biotech, Inc., which is believed to produce COVID-19 and pregnancy test kits, and housed nearly 1,000 lab mice.
Jesalyn Harper, a code enforcement officer for the City of Reedley Fire Department, told The Epoch Times she made an initial inspection of the suspicious lab after receiving an anonymous complaint about a possible business operating in the warehouse, which was believed to be vacant at the time.
In her inspection of the building’s exterior on Dec. 19, 2022, Ms. Harper said she noticed a garden hose that was being used for plumbing protruding from a warehouse wall—a building code violation.
“When I walked in—in December—there were a couple of women here. The women were putting pregnancy test kits in brown boxes for shipping,” she said. “It was a small order going out ... like maybe two or three boxes.”
The interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

The interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

After contacting the FBI to make sure it was safe, the Fresno County Public Health Department obtained search warrants and conducted a full inspection of the building on March 16, according to Ms. Harper.
In addition to medical devices such as COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, “certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus,” according to court documents.
“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,” the documents read.
After testing the substances, the CDC detected at least 20 infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, malaria, hepatitis, and herpes.
Joe Prado, assistant director at the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said in a statement on July 7 that all the biological agents in the “unlicensed laboratory” were destroyed.
Out of nearly 1,000 lab mice found in the facility, nearly 200 were dead in their cages when inspectors arrived on the scene. Some of the mice appeared to have attacked each other, which happens when the rodents are forced to live in overcrowded cages and “inhumane conditions,” according to Ms. Harper.
“They were under a lot of duress,” she said.
The interior of a suspected biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

The interior of a suspected biolab, in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

A veterinarian who inspected the facility “stated that the mice did not look sick” and authorized nearly 800 of the rodents to be humanely euthanized and incinerated in April, she said.
“They were euthanized prior to the CDC showing up,” Ms. Harper said.
But the bodies of five female and five male mice were preserved in a refrigerated evidence locker at a Fresno Police Department facility where they remain, she said.
None of the mice—including the samples—have ever been tested for COVID-19 antibodies because “there hasn’t been any concern that they need to be tested at this point,” Ms. Harper said.
The interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

The interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Courtesy of City of Reedley)

Although early reports indicated that the lab mice were “genetically engineered” or “bioengineered” to catch and carry COVID-19, Ms. Harper said the information is misleading.
She said there’s no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 experiments occurred at the Reedley facility and suggested that if the mice were carrying COVID-19 antibodies, they were likely injected with the virus in Fresno, if at all.
“There was no sign that they had been doing any form of experimentation on the mice here at the Reedley location,” Ms. Harper said.

‘Secret’ Lab

Prestige Biotech, which originally operated as Universal Meditech, Inc. in Fresno, was issued a California business license on March 20, 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the state.
After an electrical fire caused extensive damage at its leased Fresno facility, the beleaguered company, facing financial setbacks and the threat of eviction, relocated to Reedley. One of two businesses leasing the facility in Reedley agreed to sublease a vacant warehouse to Prestige Biotech.
“The company that I’m aware of is Prestige ... that had the lease agreement to rent here. But they were previously Universal Meditech,” Ms. Harper said. “They had boxed everything up and came to Reedley, so they were not actually operating here in Reedley. It was prior, and they moved their inventory here.”
The warehouse interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)

The warehouse interior of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)

The material included COVID-19 and pregnancy test kits. Some appeared to be made by the company and some didn’t, she said.
“I think what they were doing is they were looking at a successful brand and then kind of modeling their products off of those, so it’s hard for me to tell which products were theirs and which ones they may have purchased from another company,” Ms. Harper said.
It doesn’t appear any of the test kits stored at the Reedley warehouse were made there, she said.
“Some of these test kits ... were in Fresno and then some of them, I believe, were in Tulare at one point,” she said. “I was told that this business had been moving around from location to location for a while. I don’t know if it was because they were expanding or if they were getting evicted like they did in Fresno. But they finally were stopped here in Reedley by the local branch of government.”
Public records show that the company was first registered in Nevada to Zhaolin Wang on April 3, 2019, before Xiuqin Yao—who’s based in China, according to Ms. Harper—took over as president on May 28, 2021.
Ms. Harper said she questioned three female employees—who all spoke Mandarin as a first language—at the Reedley facility, as well as a man named David He and a woman who both said they were consultants for Prestige BioTech.
The company hasn’t cooperated well with authorities in the ongoing investigation, which has resulted in the abatement warrants, according to Ms. Harper.
It appears that the Reedley facility was primarily an interim facility used primarily for storage while the company looked for another location back in the Fresno area.
A sign on the wall of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)

A sign on the wall of a suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif., on July 31, 2023. (Nathan Su/The Epoch Times)

Public Fears

Much of the public fear over the biolab discovery is based on information that hasn’t been confirmed as true or not, which Ms. Harper said is one of the reasons why authorities delayed issuing a public statement.
She also said daily developments with the investigation with several agencies involved made it difficult to coordinate and release up-to-date information.
Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld criticized public officials for not announcing the investigation for five months before the Mid Valley Times broke a story on the unlicensed lab, which has operated illegally since October 2022.
“From May 2 through May 4, the CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins inspected 850 I Street. Court documents confirm the CDC found potentially infectious agents at the location. These included both bacterial and viral agents, including: chlamydia, E. Coli, streptococcus pneumonia, hepatitis B and C, herpes 1 and 5 and rubella. The CDC also found samples of malaria,” the local newspaper reported.
Mr. Bredefeld denounced public officials for not disclosing information about the “secret, illegal, and dangerous biological lab” more than five months ago when it was discovered.
“If we can’t understand that this is dangerous after going through COVID and millions of people dying, I don’t know what it’s going to take for our elected officials to ... represent the people,” he said. “The public has a right to know exactly what they know, and when they knew it, and what they intend to do about what’s going on.”
Mr. Bredefeld called the Reedley lab “Wuhan 2.0” in a July 29 statement that was posted on social media and questioned whether other illegal labs are operating in the state or parts of the country.
Lear Zhou contributed to this report.
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

Author

Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

Nathan Su

Nathan Su

Author

Nathan Su is a writer for The Epoch Times since 2018.

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