Cal Bruno
VCMap v1.0 Release

TL;DR Bio::Neos worked with the Medical College of Wisconsin to create VCMap, an interactive web based application that allows users to compare genomes of different organisms. This can be used by scientists to better understand evolution, pharmaceuticals, genetic diseases, and more.


After a long time of researching how DNA works, I found a great explanation on CancerResearchUK: “a genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA. If the DNA code is a set of instructions that’s carefully organized into paragraphs (genes) and chapters (chromosomes), then the entire manual from start to finish would be the genome. Almost every human’s genome, chromosomes, and genes are organized in the same way. It’s the DNA code, the words on the page, that are slightly different. That’s what makes us unique” (Beer, 2018)

So basically, VCMap is an interactive application that allows you to look at the whole manual (genomes), down to the chapters (chromosomes) and paragraphs (genes). To keep this post simple, that will be the deepest we dive into the science involved.


The collaboration between B::N and MCW started as far back as 2009 when Dr. Anne Kwitek, a then University of Iowa professor, received a grant from the USDA to further the research on human genomes. Using this grant, Anne wanted to modernize an aging Java application that was created specifically for comparative genomics by researchers at MCW. Anne was then connected with the team at Bio::Neos and they worked alongside one another to create the software. This updated Java version of VCMap was used until Java was no longer supported.

In 2019, Anne returned to MCW where she was previously working, and she was then able to get connected to NIH who funded the collaboration between MCW and B::N. This second project was started in 2021, and the goal was a new, web-based application that allows the end user to compare multiple genomes of varying species. B::N developers took an incremental approach to building this refreshed system, and VCMap, an interactive web-based application, was created. In February 2024, the latest version of VCMap (VCMap v1.0) was released.


VCMap is a fun tool for someone like me who doesn’t know much about DNA, but I don’t actually take much away from it since it’s pretty specific information! However, researchers who have been spending their careers studying genomes across species can use this software for good. Studying genomes helps scientists understand why certain things happen - like why some humans are at risk for heart disease and others are not. Scientists also have been looking at the genomes of humans and comparing it to other species, like mice, to see the relation between the DNA. This will help them understand how evolution happened and which species we are the most similar to, or which species have similar genes, but not similar traits. 

Scientists can also use this data to create new pharmaceuticals, and better the existing drugs on the market. Interestingly enough, a human’s DNA may cause them to respond to a medication differently than another human. This is why some medications, like antidepressants, work for some people, while others see no difference. Therefore, the genome research they gather can help them understand what specific pieces of our DNA interact with certain drugs - and each drug may interact with different parts of our DNA (National Human Genome Research Institute, 2018).


Bio::Neos worked with the Medical College of Wisconsin to create a new interactive web-based application called VCMap. VCMap allows users to compare genome information of 11 different species, which scientists can use to understand evolution, pharmaceuticals, genetic diseases, and more! If you are interested in using VCMap, it can be found here


  1. Beer, G. (2018, May 29). Science surgery: “What’s the difference between the words genome, gene and chromosome?” Cancer Research UK - Cancer News. 
  2. National Human Genome Research Institute. (2018, April 16). 15 Ways Genomics Influences Our World.