Inside Chinese-linked biolab in California
2022 video shows unsanitary conditions at site housing dangerous infectious agents.
EXCLUSIVE – Ants, dried blood, dead bugs, poor temperature controls, questions over proper ventilation and generally dirty conditions are just some of the concerns raised about Universal Meditech Inc.’s now-former warehouse in Fresno, California.
Never-before-seen video obtained by Fox News, taken last year, showed a cavernous warehouse full of old imported laboratory equipment and refrigerators full of unlabeled fluids. Some of those liquids were found in repurposed juice bottles. One had a previous life containing a well-known brand of tea.
Fresno County health officials said the contents of the warehouse on Fortune Avenue, seen in hours of videos, apparently were transferred in secret last fall to an unlicensed industrial building in nearby Reedley.
It was there that municipal officials flagged numerous code violations and obtained court warrants to enter the building and shut down operations. Also found were 20 dangerous infectious agents ranging from malaria to dengue and tuberculosis.
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A beaker with residue sitting on grime and other various equipment in a biolab in Fresno, California. (Fox News)
“There is a lot of dirt in the [Reedley] warehouse for sure,” said Fresno County Department of Public Health Assistant Director Joe Prado.
Numerous local, state and federal investigations have followed in the months since, but other than red-tagging the Reedley building and methodically disposing of its contents, no significant action has been taken publicly against UMI or its operators.
“I think the community really needs to get all the information, and unfortunately, we don’t have that information of what other agencies are doing,” Prado told Fox News.
It’s believed UMI moved out of its Fresno location last year under pressure from its landlord. Just a few months prior, lawyers representing a Louisiana company that had done business with UMI were allowed to inspect the warehouse.
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Some equipment seen at the biolab in Fresno, California. (Fox News)
UMI purportedly manufactured COVID-19 and pregnancy tests. A box of test kits obtained by Fox News clearly indicated the product came from UMI in Fresno with a flagged “Made in USA” logo. The videos from inside the plant also showed numerous medical and technical writings in Mandarin Chinese.
David Vigerust, a medical expert hired by the lawyers who also toured the warehouse, concluded in a report: “UMI does NOT have the capability to manufacture [COVID-19 test kits] in the Fresno facility.”
The lawyers in the case suspected UMI was committing fraud by importing low-grade component parts from China and assembling them in Fresno. A judge ruled in favor of the Louisiana company before trial when UMI and its officers repeatedly failed to follow the court’s rules and cut off communications with their own lawyers.
The Vigerust report also detailed the less-than-sterile conditions he observed. “One can clearly see that the manufacturing of any devices in this [warehouse] would be performed in a space that is open to dirt, dust, animal feces and dander, uncontrolled humidity and temperature.”
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Stains are found next to containers in a biolab in Fresno, California. (Fox News)
The videos showed lab mice in the warehouse that, like everything else there, would soon end up in Reedley. A state veterinarian determined that care for the nearly 1,000 mice was so poor that the hundreds of mice that hadn’t already died would be euthanized.
In summary, Vigerust concluded that “established best practices, industry standards, FDA regulatory requirements and [good manufacturing] guidelines are not adhered to nor practiced.”
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Recently, Fresno city officials offered a limited accounting of its history with UMI, including a 2020 fire, a two-year delay in citywide inspections and attempts by UMI to operate in a different location near the international airport. That application is still pending.
Phone calls Fox News made to numbers associated with UMI led to disconnected lines or unreturned messages.