Reedley, CA

Illegal Laboratory in Rural California Busted for Bioengineering Mice to Carry COVID-19

The Daily Ping

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Inside the warehouse in City Zieba,ReedleyPhoto byCity Zieba,Reedley City Manager

In a startling discovery, a secretive and unlicensed laboratory in rural California has been exposed for conducting illegal activities related to the COVID-19 virus. The investigation, which lasted for months, led to the uncovering of an underground lab filled with infectious agents, medical waste, and hundreds of bioengineered mice carrying the virus.

The lab, operated by a Chinese medical company named Prestige Biotech, had been operating without proper licensing in Reedley, California. Local authorities were completely unaware of its existence until a code enforcement officer noticed suspicious activities in December 2022. Upon further inspection, the authorities found a plethora of hazardous materials, suspected biological substances, and lab mice among other supplies.

The discovery was truly shocking for the small rural town of Reedley, with a population of 26,000. The facility was presumed to be vacant, but it turned out to be a hub of unauthorized medical research and experimentation. Officials found various medical devices, including COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, believed to have been developed on-site.

After several attempts to communicate with Prestige Biotech, the company remained uncooperative, refusing to provide necessary information and failing to comply with disposal regulations for hazardous waste. The Fresno County Public Health Department had to step in and conduct biological abatement work to safely handle and remove all the materials found in the lab.

The investigation escalated further when authorities discovered that people were actively working inside the building. Federal, state, and local agencies, including the FBI and the CDC, joined forces to serve an inspection warrant in March. Inside the warehouse, they found several vessels containing various liquids, blood, tissue, and other bodily fluids. Thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological materials were also discovered.

The most alarming find was the mistreatment of hundreds of genetically engineered mice. These mice were kept in inhumane conditions, with overcrowded cages, no access to food or water, and poor ventilation. The associate from Prestige Biotech revealed that these mice were genetically modified to carry the COVID-19 virus, which raised grave concerns about potential biosecurity risks.

The city promptly seized the mice under an abatement warrant, and sadly, 773 of them had to be euthanized due to their poor condition. The CDC was called in to inspect around 30 freezers and refrigerators found on the premises. Disturbingly, they detected at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including viruses like HIV, COVID-19, chlamydia, rubella, and malaria.

Prestige Biotech had been operating the illegal lab since October 2022, but its activities remained hidden until the investigation exposed them. The company claimed to be producing COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, intending to become a diagnostics lab.

Authorities discovered that Prestige Biotech had acquired assets from the now-defunct Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI) and moved them from Fresno to Reedley. However, their California-based addresses couldn't be verified, with most of them turning out to be empty offices or addresses in China.

The illegal activities and biosecurity risks uncovered in this case have raised serious concerns among health experts and local authorities. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of proper regulation and oversight in medical research to safeguard public health and safety. The investigation continues as authorities explore the full extent of the potential risks posed by this unlicensed laboratory.

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