A PROFESSOR who led the way at Porton Down’s Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research has died at the age of 81.

Peter Sutton became the first director of the Public Health Laboratory Service Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR) in 1978, a position he held until his retirement in 1992.

Under his leadership CAMR’s new programme of research thrived, ranging from work on special pathogens, development of vaccines, biotechnology and manufacture of diagnostic and therapeutic substances.

CAMR’s commercial potential, including vaccine production, was identified and a new production centre allowed it to produce medicinal products such as human growth hormone and the scaling up of inactivated HIV for use in AIDS diagnostic kits.

Prof Sutton contributed to various research programmes and published jointly with several colleagues.

As a pathologist of the premolecular era, he was fascinated by the biology of cancer, publishing a book and papers on the subject. While director of CAMR he began a long association with the then Salisbury Cancer Committee, which became part of Cancer Research UK in 2002.

The committee frequently visited CAMR to see and hear about cancer research, and on retirement Prof Sutton became a committee vice-president and later a patron.

He also played a pivotal role in successfully establishing Hope, the Salisbury Branch of the Wessex Medical Trust, which supports early career researchers.

He was a visiting professor at University College London, where he was previously a student of medicine, and an elected Fellow of University College.

Prof Sutton was born in 1932, the eldest son of Sir Graham and Lady Doris Sutton. He went to Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury and Wrekin College in Wellington before going on to university.

He went on to become Reader in pathology and an honorary consultant at University College Hospital Medical School.

Colleagues say he was a superb diagnostic surgical pathologist and an outstanding teacher with an impish sense of humour and lack of pomposity.

He was an influential and caring mentor to trainee pathologists, many of whom went on to have distinguished academic careers.

Throughout his life he pursued a great love of music, literature and philosophy.

Prof Sutton died on February 10 and is survived by his wife Helen, four children and eight grandchildren.