A California-based medical supply firm has come under scrutiny over suspected ties to China and the discovery of an underground biolab in Reedley, California.
The Universal Meditech Inc. lab was found to contain various infectious agents, raising concerns among local officials and prompting investigations by multiple governmental agencies, according to a Fox News report.
According to court documents, city officials inspected 850 I St. March 3 for building violations and found various chemicals being stored.
A March 16 inspection by county public health officials allegedly discovered medical devices thought to have been developed on-site, such as COVID and pregnancy tests.
“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.”
The biolab, located in a previously vacant warehouse in Reedley, was discovered last year, the Fox report noted.
Investigators determined the building’s tenant was Prestige Biotech, a Nevada-based company not licensed for business in California, according to an NBC News report.
City officials communicated through email with Prestige Biotech president Xiuquin Yao, the NBC report noted.
Yao reportedly told officials Prestige Biotech transferred assets of the defunct company, Universal Meditech Inc., to the Reedley warehouse from Fresno after UMI went under.
Prestige Biotech was a UMI creditor, identified as its successor, according to court documents.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation identified 20 different infectious agents inside the building, including tuberculosis, dengue, HIV, COVID-19 and malaria, according to the report.
The CDC also highlighted unsanitary lab conditions of the lab such as old equipment, poor storage and dead mice found on the premises, the Fox report noted.
“We don’t have all the answers of what was happening in this lab,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commented. “This is very disturbing.”
When local code enforcement officers inspected the facility in March, UMI staff claimed they were producing COVID-19 and pregnancy tests.
The alleged presence of potentially deadly agents in the lab raised questions that neither the Fresno County Department of Health nor other officials could answer, the report noted.
The CDC also noted a lack of cooperation from UMI and its successor, Prestige Biotech, according to the report.
“Prestige Biotech or various owners of the materials present in the warehouse have yet to cooperate with document requests from multiple partner agencies fully,” the CDC stated.
Further investigations into UMI’s operations in Fresno revealed allegations of the company violating federal safety regulations, misleading clients about their COVID-19 test kits, and evading legal responsibilities. Jeff Johnston, CEO of Louisiana-based CovidScan, shared his experience with UMI, describing the company’s operations during the pandemic as “a lot of smoke and mirrors.” He also expressed doubts about the actual origin of the test kits, suspecting they were produced in China.
Shipping records provided by ImportGenius showed that UMI/Prestige received at least 16 shipments from China in recent years, according to the Fox News report.
Contents of the shipments, which ended up in Fresno, included items like pregnancy tests and cleaning agents.