Guests scarce at Virgin wedding CBD Ben Butler

Guests scarce at Virgin wedding CBD Ben Butler

It was a case of where are the main players, after the competition watchdog gave permission for Virgin to consummate its hook-up with rival budget airline Tiger.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims was on the other side of the world at an annual gathering of about 100 competition tsars over pierogi, kielbasa and vodka in Poland.

Virgin boss John Borghetti was getting on a plane after annual holidays to an unknown destination - we presume Hong Kong.

It meant CBD couldn't ask him who was the external candidate with domestic aviation experience to whip troubled Tiger Australia into shape.

There's plenty to do: the airline has suffered from a terrible public image, including strife with the safety regulator.

If Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who has plenty of experience running budget airlines, gets sick of running the Australian feeder for Emirates, perhaps he could jump ships to partner his former workmate.

Bad PR is good

It may have been banned by sporting authorities, but ordinary Americans could soon be chowing down on AOD-9604, the anti-obesity drug that controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank allegedly injected into AFL and NRL players.

Metabolic Pharmaceuticals, which owns the drug, says US authorities are close to approving it for general use in food.

Chief executive David Kenley told CBD AOD-9604 was already available over the counter in Australia as the active ingredient in a cosmetic cream called Bodyshaper.

He also criticised the World Anti-Doping Agency, which on Monday night banned AOD-9604 from use by athletes.

Kenley said the product was close to receiving a "generally recognised as safe" (GRAS) designation from the US Food and Drug Administration, which would allow it to be added to food.

He said the drug had undergone extensive testing that "tells us that AOD is profoundly safe" and it should be able to qualify for GRAS recognition once the company published existing test results.

Once recognised "it would be absolutely legal and ethical in the US to add the product to food, snack bars - it could go into drinks, skinny water," he said.

He said WADA's ruling created a confusing grey area that would be a field day for lawyers.

"While the WADA code talks about a therapeutic agent, it doesn't talk about a cosmetic agent or a food agent," he said.

Metabolic is a subsidiary of ASX-listed biotech Calzada and was set up to commercialise AOD, which Kenley said was "a peptide that's modelled on one fragment of human growth hormone".

While human growth hormone is an effective anti-ageing drug, it has horrible side effects, including diabetes and cancer.

"AOD has the positive aspects of human growth hormone ... without any sign of any side effect whatsoever," Kenley said.

After spending $50 million on the drug, Calzada stopped developing it in 2007 after a large human trial failed to show it worked in tablet form.

The company later decided to give the drug another go after discovering athletes, gyms and fat people were paying up to $US30,000 a gram for it in injectable form on a booming black market.

He said Calzada was now hoping to find a big pharma partner willing to spend the millions needed for a phase three human trial, most likely with a focus on the drug's potential to treat osteoarthritis.

"The general consensus in the market has been that AOD-9604 is absolutely safe, but it just doesn't work.

"Well all this coverage by WADA and ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority] logically should tell everyone that AOD-9604 does actually work."

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