What happened

Shares of Fluidigm (FLDM 0.52%) jumped over 14% today after the company reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 operating results. The company specializes in providing hardware, reagents (the chemicals and consumables used to operate the hardware), and services for life sciences laboratories -- and business is booming.

The company delivered year-over-year revenue growth of 11% in 2018, but sales growth was accelerating at the end of the year. Fluidigm reported fourth-quarter 2018 revenue growth of 17% compared to the year-ago period, which was led by hardware, reagents, and services. That's important for investors because long-term growth will be driven by getting as many machines into labs as possible and then generating recurring revenue through reagent sales to the installed hardware base.

As of 3:29 p.m. EST, the stock had settled to an 11.7% gain.

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Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The story for Fluidigm in 2018 was the robust demand for its mass cytometry platform, which saw year-over-year sales increase a whopping 48% in the fourth quarter. Mass cytometry is a relatively new technique in life sciences that's quickly becoming a must-have capability for labs. It allows researchers to study complex biological systems in unparalleled detail, enabling scientists to tease out complex relationships with clinical or industrial relevance.

The important thing for investors to consider is that mass cytometry revenue across instruments, reagents, and services comprised 52% of Fluidigm's total revenue in 2018. It's expected to remain the driving force for the business in the year ahead. In fact, despite the company reporting an operating loss of $48 million in 2018, management expects to report breakeven operations in the first quarter of 2019.

Check out the latest Fluidigm earnings call transcript.

Now what

Fluidigm is an under-the-radar business in an important and fast-growing niche. If it can continue to exploit a growing global appetite for mass cytometry and reach breakeven or better operations soon, it may flash across investor radars in 2019. Individual investors may want to put this one near the top of their watchlists.