Stem Cell Sciences must be the most global of any stem cell company. SCS has corporate research and development centres in the UK, Japan and Australia and plans to set up a US operation this year. Its bold business plan is based on commercialising human embryonic stem cells, first to sell as a research tool to the pharmaceutical industry and later to develop cell-based therapies.

Peter Mountford, the chief executive, set up SCS in his native Australia as a "virtual company" in 1994, shortly after returning home from a productive period working in Scotland with Austin Smith, the Edinburgh stem cell pioneer. In 2000 it became a real company with employees and staff in Melbourne, and the following year Mountford set up a Japanese operation, SCS KK, in Kobe, where it collaborates with stem cell researchers at the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology.

In 2003 Mountford moved back to Scotland and set up SCS's corporate headquarters in Edinburgh. Mike Dexter, a stem cell biologist who had just completed a five-year term as director of the Wellcome Trust, became company chairman. Mountford was attracted by Scotland's emergence as a centre of excellence in stem cell research and above all by the prospect of working again with Smith, who now runs the Institute for Stem Cell Research at Edinburgh University.

SCS directly employs about 40 people--half in Japan and the others divided between Scotland and Australia. Over its lifetime, the company has raised about £5m ($9.25m) from investors and another £5m through collaborative research and licensing deals with pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Aventis. Stem cell therapies lie further in the future, with Parkinson's disease one possible target.

While Mountford has nothing but praise for Scotland's scientific credentials and the encouragement his company has received from government bodies such as Scottish Enterprise and the UK Department of Trade and Industry, he is critical of Britain's venture-capital community for failing to see the long-term value in SCS.

The next funding round will focus on American investors, with a possible listing on London's Alternative Investments Market, to raise money to start a US operation. The location for the US development centre has yet to be decided. Mountford says the long-term aim is a Nasdaq listing in New York City, although he wants to keep the corporate headquarters in Scotland.