Everything we know about the illegal Reedley Lab

As new details emerge, we are starting to learn the full timeline of events on how an illegal lab began to operate in Reedley.

Marc Anthony Lopez Image
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Illegal Reedley lab update given to Fresno County supervisors
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has received an update on the future of an illegal bio-lab discovered in Reedley.

REEDLEY, Calif. (KFSN) -- In order to combat misinformation, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors received an update from the county's Department of Public Health Tuesday on the illegal lab in Reedley.

We now have a breakdown of what is known publicly about the lab in Reedley that was found operating illegally earlier this year.

Here's everything we know about the illegal Reedley Lab

What happened at the illegal lab:

Officials found Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech Inc. had unauthorized biological agents, samples of bodily fluid, infectious diseases, COVID and pregnancy tests and nearly 1,000 mice at the Reedley Facility illegal without permits or permissions.

RELATED: Lab operating in Reedley shut down after officials found infectious agents and chemicals

"As I made contact with the workers on site, red flags started to go up, but I still, in my wildest dreams, wouldn't have realized what was inside the building and what they were actually storing on site," said Reedley code enforcement officer Jesalyn Harper.

Timeline of Events:

Tuesday morning, Zieba and Joe Prado from Fresno County Public Health detailed the long history of Prestige Biotech/Universal Meditech in the Central Valley.

2015 to 2019 - Tulare City Manager Josh McDonnell says Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech operated out of a building on East Tulare Avenue and South Mooney Boulevard in Tulare.

2018 - Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech Inc.'s operated out of a warehouse in Southwest Fresno near East North Avenue and South Orange Avenue. The health department said at this time, the company had live mice used for tests. At this time, the company had the proper permits to operate.

August 2020 - Southwest Fresno warehouse catches fire. An Environmental health inspector visits the warehouse following the fire and finds the company did not have a hazardous materials business plan for the ethanol it was using.

October 2022 - Fresno County Department of Public Health staff received a complaint about chemicals at the Southwest Fresno location, but they could not get access. This was the last record the Department of Public Health had of the company operating in the city of Fresno.

December 2022 - A Reedley code enforcement officer finds a green garden hose sticking out of a building at I Street and 10th Street in Reedley. Prado says the FBI was contacted to evaluate the potential public safety risk of the operation. Ultra-low temperature lab freezers designed for temperatures of 80 degrees below zero were found at the Reedley site.

March 2023 - After meetings in January and February and amid a nationwide recall of the company's COVID tests, officials finally gain access to walk through the facility. This is when the lab is officially shut down under an unsafe-to-occupy notice.

March 16, 2023 - A judge grants Public Health officials an inspection warrant for the Reedley facility. Inside they found 55 gallons of ethanol, 6 empty containers of liquid nitrogen, and live mice used for tests.

April 21, 2023 - Fresno County orders its first of three health orders. Prado says during this time Prestige Biotech was in communication with the Department of Public Health.

June 26, 2023 - A judge issues an abatement warrant.

July 2023 - All biological materials are removed and destroyed by Fresno County and other agencies.

Present time - The City of Reedley continues the cleanup effort, including the removal of freezers, furniture and other medical equipment. "My hope is that by the time we enter heavily in fall, it will be another empty warehouse like we thought it was for the last decade," said Zieba.

Who is Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech Inc.?:

Universal Meditech Inc.'s website currently displays its nationwide recall notice for it's COVID-19 antigen rapid test kit.

Using the San Francisco-based non-profit Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we are able to see the company's mission statement.

Its mission statement reads: Universal Meditech Inc. is an innovative solution provider who develops, manufactures and markets state-of-the-art In Vitro Diagnostic medical devices. UMI's IVD reagent manufacturing service includes formulation, testing, filling, label control, inspection, packaging and shipping.

UMI was established in 2015 in Central California with the vision of a major international diagnostics business providing patients, doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers with diagnostic testing for disease identification and disease predisposition.

Court documents state Presitege Biotech is a Nevada-based company, however, no website was found explicitly under that name.

Local residents response:

Local residents are upset over the city of Reedley's transparency on the illegal lab.

The Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba has been questioned as to why no one in the community was told about the lab sooner.

RELATED: Reedley city manager under fire following fallout of illegal lab

Zieba says it was the federal authorities who told them to hold off on notifying the public until they knew what they were dealing with.

They say during the entire process, the FBI told them there was never any threat to public safety.

Zieba also said they wanted to keep communication open with Universal Meditech and Prestige Biotech to continue learning what they were doing in the lab. She says now that everything is public, they have not heard from the company.

How officials are working to prevent another lab like this from opening in the future:

On a local level, officials are trying to bring awareness to state and federal loopholes allowing these types of businesses to operate.

Zieba says she believes this should be a bipartisan issue that brings everyone together to create change.

"I expect that as this issue rises to the surface nationwide, more and more of these are going to be discovered around the country," said Zieba.

"As we go through any next steps, we are going to evaluate our resources, we are gonna evaluate our fee structures with businesses as it comes to hazard mitigation plans, and everything else here that we can at the local level to ensure this doesn't happen here," said Prado.


The Fresno County Department of Public Health is trying to clarify misinformation surrounding the lab, stating the myths being spread throughout the City of Reedley are untrue.

"At this time there's no evidence of the business being connected to a foreign government," said Prado.

"There's a local myth in Reedley -- there's a supermarket that shut down across the street, there's a local myth that it shut down because mice got out and infected the supermarket -- no no no, the roof is collapsing in the supermarket and it shut a year prior to this lab coming to Reedley," said Zieba.

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