The company involved, Prestige BioTech, was operating the unlicensed rural facility in Fresno County. In July, an investigation revealed that it housed medical waste, infectious agents, and hundreds of mice that had been bioengineered to contract and carry COVID-19.
The city of Reedley, where the lab was relocated, said that the company did not have a business license and officials were not aware that they were even operating there. Concerns by code enforcement officers who observed signs of activity at the site led to an investigation that found the lab mice, along with bodily fluids, blood, tissue and other chemical and biological materials.
Federal, state and local agencies joined the investigation, finding hundreds of mice kept in overcrowded cages without access to water and food. The genetically engineered mice were seized. More than a hundred were already dead, and 773 of them were euthanized. They also found viruses such as HIV, chlamydia, malaria, herpes, rubella and coronavirus; a report from the CDC found at least 20 potentially infectious agents overall. In addition, they uncovered medical devices they suspect were developed on-site, such as pregnancy and COVID-19 tests.
Judicial Watch has now released records it obtained through a California Public Records Act request for records, emails, photos and other communications related to Prestige BioTech. The documents confirmed the presence of biological materials and contained graphic images of dead mice.
A declaration by a code enforcement officer notes: “Upon entering the mouse room, Code Enforcement and Dr. Hahn observed a large amount of mice feces on the floor.”
They added that the mice were clearly in severe distress given their behavior and recommended euthanasia: “When under stress the dominant mice will begin to rip the hair and skin off the less dominant mice. The lack of pinkies can be related to starvation or stress, because Code Enforcement had been trying to provide adequate food and water it is believed the cannibalism is due to stress.”
Court documents shed more light on the conditions, reporting that "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."
Prestige BioTech has been accused of failing to comply with orders and not providing a plan for the biological abatement and disposal of hazardous materials.
Last month, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Congressman Jim Costa called for an investigation into how the illegal lab secured $150,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were paid out in April 2020 and 2021 and then forgiven by the federal government. A letter by the congressmen stated that the company was not a legitimate business and had been operating illegal biological labs, questioning how they managed to receive taxpayer money intended to help genuine businesses get through the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the discovery of the lab should serve as a reminder that dangerous labs can be found where you least expect them.
“Americans should know that dangerous biological research doesn’t just occur in ‘Wuhan,’ it is happening all over the United States,” he said.
Judicial Watch also exposed funding by the Defense Department for anthrax lab activity in Ukraine, with $11 million of funding provided to Ukrainian biolabs in 2019. They also drew attention to safety lapses and other violations at American biosafety labs carrying out research on dangerous toxins.
Sources for this article include: