It is suggested in this article that patient engagement should occur further upstream during the drug discovery stage. 'Lead patients', namely those patients who are proactive with respect to their health, possess knowledge of their disease and resulting symptoms. They are also well informed about the conventional as well as non-conventional treatments for disease management; and so can provide a nuanced perspective to drug design. Understanding how patients view the management of their diseases and how they view the use of conventional versus non-conventional interventions is of imperative importance to researchers. Indeed, this can provide insight into how conventional treatments might be designed from the outset to encourage compliance and positive health outcomes. Consequently, a continuum of lead patient engagement is employed that focuses on drug discovery processes ranging from participative, informative to collaborative engagement. This article looks at a variety of open innovation models that are currently employed across this engagement spectrum. It is no longer sufficient for industry stakeholders to consider conventional therapies as the only mechanisms being sought after by patients. Without patient engagement, the industry risks being re-prioritized in terms of its role in the patient journey towards not only recovery of health, but also sustained health and wellness before disease onset.