TORONTO -- The Ontario government has announced that it’s moving forward with “groundbreaking” research projects to fight COVID-19, including clinical trials investigating vaccines and treatments.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano made the announcement at a news conference Thursday, saying that the government is funding its “first phase” of research to "test, detect and treat" the disease.

"My friends, any of these are groundbreaking projects. They have the potential to be a game changer - not just for Ontario, but for Canada and the entire world,” the premier told reporters.

"I want that vaccine to be discovered right here in Ontario. I want us to be the global leaders in this fight and I know we will be."

The province said it is moving forward with funding for 15 “high-quality and promising proposals” to fight COVID-19, as well as the 22 clinical trials investigating vaccines and treatments.

The proposals were submitted in response to a recent call under Ontario’s $20 million COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, which is looking for research related to vaccine development, rapid testing, drug trials and development and social sciences.

"Our incredible scientific research and post-secondary community has stepped up in a big way,” Ford said.

“They have put up their hands, we've received proposals from every corner of this province and today I am proud to announce that we are moving forward with 15 of the most promising proposals as part of the first phase."

Ford provided examples of some of the “ground breaking” research, which include vaccine development at the University of Guelph and a proposal by St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton on a new rapid testing method that would enable “6,000 tests per lab a day.”

He also mentioned a study out of McMaster University that looks at recovered COVID-19 patients and investigating if antibodies remain and continue to fight the virus, as well as a food security project by Western University to study how food retail businesses are impacted by adapting to COVID-19.

The government says that additional projects are expected to be announced in the coming weeks, and that all projects were evaluated by a peer review committee in “shortened” selection process.

Minister Romano said that the proposals were picked because they have “a legitimate chance at success” and could produce “immediate results.”

"We have taken a process that would normally take 12 to 18 months and we have managed to reduce that to a three week process while maintaining the integrity of the system,” Romano said.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day in Ontario climbed back up to above 400 on Thursday, bringing the total number of patients in Ontario to 24,187, including 1,993 deaths and 18,509 recoveries.

"We are all doing our part in the fight against this virus, we are all doing our part to slow down the spread, but slowing down the spread isn't enough, the key to beating this virus once and for all, the key to getting things back to normal is finding a vaccine, finding a cure,” Ford said.

"Until we find that vaccine the fight isn't over."