Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech have been in the headlines for a couple weeks as the two mysterious companies connected to the secret biological lab that was discovered in Reedley.
While Universal Meditech has a history in Fresno, Prestige Biotech just appeared on the scene last year as the operators of the Reedley biologics lab that contained infectious agents such as malaria and nearly 1,000 mice designed to carry COVID-19.
Fresno County Department of Public Health Assistant Director Joe Prado was on the scene dealing with the two companies since the county was first made aware of the lab late last year.
Prado spoke with The Sun for an episode of Sunrise FM to discuss everything the county knows about the two companies.
The big picture: Universal Meditech was operating a facility in Fresno that was damaged by a small fire on Aug. 26, 2020.
- The company had a permit from the city to operate, and Fresno County had issued a hazardous materials permit to Universal Meditech. While Prestige Biotech would later be difficult to deal with, Universal Meditech was following the rules and was in compliance.
- Prestige Biotech appeared last year with the Reedley lab and had apparently purchased all of the assets from Universal Meditech after the company went bankrupt.
- After Reedley code enforcement first investigated the lab, Prado and Fresno County had great difficulty in validating that Prestige Biotech actually had the appropriate licenses to operate in California.
- Prestige Biotech has been connected to a property in Las Vegas, but Prado said the county has not been able to pinpoint where the business is headquartered.
- Fresno County has not seen any evidence that connects Prestige Biotech or Universal Meditech with the Chinese government, but the company told the county that its owners live in China.
- Court documents identify Xiuguin Yao as the president of Prestige Biotech. Wang Zhaolin and David He also represented the company in its dealings with the county.
What they’re saying: Prado interacted over email with He, saying Yao and Zhaolin were shielded from most communications.
- He proved to be difficult and was not forthcoming in the county’s questions.
- “It seems like it’s very consistent with these business representatives. If we were to ask them a question, as we did multiple times in different ways, if they did respond they would probably answer three percent of the question,” Prado said. “They would only provide very little information, just enough so they could say, ‘Hey we responded.’”
- Prado said Prestige Biotech would submit information that was not relative to the questions that were being posed, saying it was “very methodical trying to misdirect us.”