Following an investigation by officials at a warehouse central California, new reports Monday revealed a large-scale illegal medical lab with bioengineered mice and infectious agents.
The lab, located in Reedley, Fresno County, had around 30 refrigerators, operational and non-operational freezers, incubators, and medical testing supplies. Upon searching the building, officials found 800 different chemicals and have yet to identify all of them.
Speaking to local reports, Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba explained there was a “special room” meant to house around “1,000 white lab mice.” Out of the 1,000 mice, 200 were already dead.
Officials also found thousands of vials that contained biohazardous materials, including human blood and other unknown substances.
“This entire scenario is profoundly disturbing,” said Robert E. Moffit, a senior research fellow in the Center for Health and Welfare Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
“We have a lab stocked with highly infectious agents; the presence of hundreds of mice, including dead mice; samples of human blood; and a biotech executive who is not forthcoming with complete information. Curiously, why is the public, via the media, learning about the existence of the lab now, when, according to media reports, the lab’s discovery was made last April,” he added.
Joe Prado, assistant director of the Fresno County Health Department, told local news outlets that the suspects were “doing some testing on laboratory mice that would help them support, developing the COVID test kits that they had on-site.”
Officials say the investigation began in April after a garden hose was illegally attached to the back of the building.
In a public release statement, Prado said that the Fresno County Public Health Department has been “evaluating and assessing the activities of an unlicensed laboratory.”
The biological agents were destroyed by July 7 following a legal abatement process by the agency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested the material from the illegal lab and found at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes.
According to reports, the tenant of the illegal lab was Prestige BioTech; a company registered in Nevada and unlicensed for business in California. City officials spoke with the company’s President, Xiuquin Yao, who told officials that Prestige BioTech transferred assets belonging to a defunct company, Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI), to the Reedley warehouse from Fresno after UMI went bankrupt.
Another official from the company, Wang Zhaolin, told investigators the mice were genetically engineered to catch and spread the COVID-19 virus.
Prado said that the President of Prestige was not forthcoming with information, accusing the company of failing to comply with orders, including providing a plan for biological abatement and disposal of the toxic materials.
“The public has a right to know how CDC officials have assessed the situation at that lab, and a formal statement should be forthcoming. Of course, another crucial question relates to any federal, or other public funding, provided for its activities, ” Moffit told The Foreign Desk.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, investigations by journalists and lawmakers in Congress have found the likely possibility of foreign entities using medical laboratories to study, create, and possibly weaponize viruses.