A researcher with ties to China was recently escorted out of the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg amidst an RCMP investigation into what's being described as a possible "policy breach."
Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband Keding Cheng and an unknown number of her students from China were removed from Canada's only level-4 lab on July 5, CBC News has learned. The students didn't speak much English and kept to themselves in a group.
A Level 4 virology facility is a lab equipped to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. That makes the Arlington Street lab one of only a handful in North America capable of handling pathogens requiring the highest level of containment, such as Ebola.
Security access for the couple and the Chinese students was revoked, according to sources who work at the lab and do not want to be identified because they fear consequences for speaking out.
Sources say this comes several months after IT specialists for the NML entered Qiu's office after-hours and replaced her computer. Her regular trips to China also started being denied.
At a meeting on July 8, NML staff was told the couple was on leave for an unknown period of time. They were told not to communicate with them.
Qiu is a prominent virologist who helped develop ZMapp, a treatment for the deadly Ebola virus which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014-2016.
She worked with Gary Kobinger, who is now a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and director of the Research Centre on Infectious Diseases at Laval University in Quebec.