Forget 2050. David Nutt now says his synthetic alcohol could be on the market in just five years.
Back in 2016, I reported on David Nutt, the director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, who was working on something called “alcosynth” — a synthetic version of alcohol billed as having the fun effects of booze but without the negative toxins and hangovers. At the time, he said he hoped that that alcosynth could replace traditional alcohol by 2050, but as often happens in modern science, that timeline has seemed to condense considerably. In a recent discussion with The Guardian, Nutt suggested that his synthetic alcohol could hit the market in as soon as five years. In fact, he’s already consumed it himself.
“We’re allowed to try it whenever we want,” he told The Guardian of his test batches, which he mixes with fruit juice to mask the taste. “We tested a lot of possible compounds to try to find which are most likely to work. It would be dishonest to spend millions of pounds on something when you haven’t a clue if it does what you want.”
Nutt says he first wrote about the concept back in 2005; his research into how alcohol affected certain brain receptors led him to theorize that such a product was possible. At the time, however, critics thought it was too far outside of the box because, as Nutt put it, “disruptive technology didn’t exist.” But in a world where things like lab-grown meat are now becoming a reality, Nutt finally moved forward on his dream to end hangovers and alcohol-related damage to people’s bodies.
In the end, Nutt said creating the compound — which is now branded Alcarelle — was more challenging than simply coming up with the idea, “but the real challenge is taking that molecule to a drink,” he told The Guardian. “The regulatory side is much harder than the science.”
Still, Nutt says he and his business partners have a five-year plan for Alcarelle. They’re attempting to raise about $26 million to bring it to market, hopefully by supplying it to other drink companies to include in their products. “We think, once we’re approved and on the market,” Nutt’s business partner, David Orren, explained, “we are going to see an amazing and wonderful explosion of creativity. The drinks industry employs really creative people.” You can almost sense the mixologists already taking it way too seriously.