Quantum's high-stakes hypertension phase 3 fails, tanking stock and ending cardiology work

Vultures are circling Quantum Genomics. A high-stakes phase 3 hypertension readout has gone against the French biotech, prompting it to stop work on firibastat in cardiology and reallocate its remaining 11 million euros ($11 million) to other projects. 

Quantum moved the brain aminopeptidase A inhibitor firibastat into the 515-subject phase 3 clinical trial on the strength of a single-arm midphase study. The earlier study linked the candidate, which was then called QGC001, to a reduction in systolic blood pressure, suggesting it may treat hypertension by hitting an enzyme in the brain. However, the lack of a control arm left room to doubt the drug’s impact.

The phase 3 study cemented those doubts. Firibastat was statistically no better than placebo at reducing blood pressure, causing the trial to miss its primary endpoint and prompting Quantum to stop a second phase 3 clinical trial of the molecule. Development of firibastat in cardiology indications is over. 

Quantum framed the early end of the second phase 3 as a way to free up cash to fund the development of “new innovative molecules.” But the biotech lacks advanced follow-up assets to fall back on, or much cash to rebuild its pipeline. Firibastat is the only named asset in Quantum’s public pipeline, and, ahead of the discontinuation of the second study, it had 11 million euros to its name. 

Stopping the firibastat study reset Quantum’s “financial horizon” to the third quarter of 2023, buying it a little more time. The biotech said it had the cash to last until the second quarter of 2023 when it posted its first-half financial update earlier this month. Quantum’s financial liabilities as of the first-half update stood at 11.7 million euros. 

Investors responded to the firibastat fail by sending shares in Quantum down 90% to 0.33 euro cents in Paris.