Look for a list of industry leaders in 10-K reports

Q: How can I find a list of the stocks involved in the stem-cell research area?

A: With attention placed on the promise of stem-cell research by the Obama Administration, investors are looking for a way to cash in.

Stem-cell research is a promising area of medical research, which some believe might unlock many questions on persistent diseases. And there are several companies toiling away to turn this science into a reality.

When researching an industry, and trying to figure out what companies are significant players, don't overlook the 10-K or annual report. One trick fundamental analysts use to find what companies are in an industry is to grab the 10-K of one of the leading companies. In this document, companies will list competitors, saving you lots of trouble and time.

To start, you might grab the 10-K of one major publicly traded players in the industry, StemCells Inc. stem. StemCells, it turns out, doesn't list rivals in its most recent 2008 10-K. But a previous 10-K provides a helpful description of the industry's major players:

"The market for therapeutic products to treat diseases of, or injuries to, the central nervous system (CNS) is large, and competition is intense. The majority of the products currently on the market or in development are small molecule pharmaceutical compounds. Many of the world's large pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Pfizer, Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, have made significant commitments to the CNS field. Any cell-based therapy to treat diseases of, or injuries to, the CNS is likely to face intense competition from the small molecule sector. In addition, a number of biotechnology companies with resources far greater than ours may also emerge as competitors. These include Genzyme, Amgen, Cephalon, Shire Pharmaceuticals, BioMarin, Celgene, Biogen Idec, and Titan Pharmaceuticals/Schering AG. Finally, we also expect to compete with smaller biotechnology companies, such as NeuralStem, Geron, NeuroNova, ReNeuron, and ES Cell International, some of which are privately owned."

This should give you plenty of names to start with.

Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at mkrantz@usatoday.com. Click here to see previous Ask Matt columns.