Alcohol-free pints that give you a buzz but avoid a crushing morning-after hangover may be just a few years away, according to scientists.
Biotech firm Alcarelle is bidding to raise £7m to fund its last round of safety studies before it seeks permission to sell the new drinks by the early 2020s, according to the Times.
The company, helmed by Professor David Nutt, is leading the way in alcosynth research – synthetic alcohols that not only remove the risk of hangovers but avoid liver damage and loss of control.
Many alcosynths are derivatives of benzodiazepine – commonly used to treat anxiety disorder – but do not cause withdrawal symptoms.
They can be formulated to limit potency, leaving drinkers only mildly intoxicated, rather than drunk.
"We think the effects round out at about four or five 'drinks', then the effect would max out," Nutt told the Independent.
He added: "We know where the good effects of alcohol are mediated in the brain, and can mimic them. And by not touching the bad areas, we don't have the bad effects.
"It will be there alongside the scotch and the gin, they'll dispense the alcosynth into your cocktail and then you'll have the pleasure without damaging your liver and your heart."
Experts believe the new drinks could eventually completely replace alcohol and potentially save thousands of lives.
Drinking is the third biggest risk factor for disease and death in the UK, after smoking and obesity, according to Alcohol Concern.
Nutt has strong views on the dangers of drink. In 2009 Alan Johnson, who was home secretary, asked him to resign as chairman of the government-backed Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs days after he said alcohol was more dangerous than Ecstasy and LSD.
"People want healthier drinks," said Professor Nutt. "The drinks industry knows that by 2050 alcohol will be gone."
But alcosynths will need regulatory approval by the UK's Food Standards Authority, which may well hold up their appearance in pubs and on stores shelves.
The product is so new it is unclear whether it should classified as a drug, a food ingredient, or a novel psychoactive substance.