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This invention enables the facile synthesis of high molecular weight mucins, the gel forming constituent and defining component of mucus.  They are of interest to the defense and pharmaceutical industries because of their role in the human body’s primary defense against pathogens and toxins. Since mucus can decrease drug bioavailability, pharmaceutical companies may use mucins to test drug candidates. In the defense industry, there is considerable interest in using mucins to combat exogenous biological threats.