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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The "non-fungible token" hype sweeping the country has invigorated an appetite for the backbone of the phenomenon.

Driving the news: Investors are pouring big money into the phenomenon's infrastructure — betting it's here to stay.

Catch up quick: The eye-popping amounts spent to own a digital version of art — or newspaper covers, trading cards, memes, you name it — verified via blockchain, have been called a side effect of the broader market frenzy.

What they're saying: The infrastructure behind NFTs "has improved tremendously in recent years. ... Protocols, applications and creators can scale fast to meet demand," says Matt Beck, director of investment at venture capital firm Digital Currency Group.

  • "The interest in NFTs is likely to persist, even if prices were to cool off amid a wider financial downturn."

The company behind virtual trading card site NBA Top Shot said Tuesday it raised $305 million — the biggest ever funding round for an NFT-focused company. (Valuation: $2.6 billion).

  • NFT marketplace SuperRare said today it raised $9 million.
  • OpenSea, another platform to sell and buy NFTs, said last week it raised $23 million.

By the numbers: NFT-related startups raised $35 million last year, according to Pitchbook.

  • The funding rounds listed above (by no means exhaustive) are already more than 9 times that amount — and it's only March.

The bottom line: So long as NFTs are hot, its ecosystem will be too.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Mar 30, 2021 - Technology

NFTs give sports trading cards a digital upgrade

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

To date, much of the craze for NFTs — cryptographically unique tokens tied to creative works — has centered on the art world, where Christie's recently sold one NFT for a whopping $69 million. But NFTs have found a more down-to-earth niche via their use in the world of sports.

What's happening: A collection of investors, professional athletes and sports leagues are betting that the business of fans purchasing and trading NBA Top Shots — NFTs tied to key moments in past NBA games, which have already done hundreds of millions of dollars in business — will keep growing.

Hope King, author of Closer
Mar 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

NFT mania hits "SNL"

Pete Davidson during the cryptocurrency sketch on "SNL," March 27. Photo: NBC

"Saturday Night Live" took a spin at explaining NFTs over the weekend through a music video parodying Eminem’s “Without Me.” 

Why it matters: Interest in NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, has been building since the start of the year — and peaked when digital artist Beeple sold one of his pieces at auction for $69 million.  

16 mins ago - Health

Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific COVID vaccine

A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have started clinical trials for a reformulated vaccine to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Why it matters: The rise of the Omicron variant has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines.