California's Stem Cell Agency was created in 2004 when 59% of California voters approved Proposition 71: the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. That initiative created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund stem cell research in the state. In addition to creating the agency, Prop 71 created a 29-member governing Board composed of researchers, business leaders and patient advocates.
CIRM held its first meeting in December, 2004 to begin hiring a president, finding a headquarters and establishing the three working groups to advise the board. The agency moved into headquarters in San Francisco in 2005 and issued the first round of funding in 2006.
In 2006, when CIRM first began funding awards, scientists knew very little about the best ways of working with stem cells or of converting them into mature cell types that would be useful as therapies. What’s more, funding restrictions from the federal governement and legal concerns prevented many scientists from dedicating their labs to regenerative medicine. As a result, few graduate and undergraduate students were learning how to work with the cells. This created a severe shortage in the future stem cell lab workforce.