A Scottish biotechnology firm is aiming to develop a new procedure which could reduce the number of drug tests carried out on animals.
The new process would reduce the number of animal tests
CXR Biosciences, which is based in Dundee, has teamed up with Edinburgh's Roslin Institute and US firm Geron.
If they can grow liver cells from stem cells it would remove the need to carry out liver damage tests on animals.
CXR said that would be a "major breakthrough" which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
The company's Dr Tom Shepherd said: "The guys at Roslin and Geron know all about stem cells, but we know all about the liver, so together we hope to be able to make this deliver.
"The current market for testing of this kind is about £100m worldwide, but we think that is quite small compared to what it would be if this works. It could result in every drug going through this test.
"I am sure it was quite hard for Microsoft to predict the market size for computers, but this product could be worth at least several hundred million pounds. It could be huge."
The liver is responsible for about 60% of drug test problems.
If the companies are successful, the new process would be used before the stage when animal and human tests are carried out.
The aim is to create liver cells from stem cells
A spokesperson said that would remove the need to carry out liver damage tests on animals.
It would end unnecessary deaths while giving a more accurate picture of the effect on human livers earlier in the testing process.
Details of the deal were being announced at the Bio 2004 conference in San Francisco.
CXR is one of 29 Scottish companies, university departments and other organisations attending the event, the largest of its kind in the world.